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Rosalee

-Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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I feel like a damn fool.  I’m supposed to be a poet.  But I let Rosalee dress me

up like a floozy.  How does she talk me into crap like this?  I’m a grown

woman.  I should know better.

.

Even with the air conditioner blasting in her Corvette, it’s hotter than forty

hells.  My feet are sweating.  Nobody wears high heel pumps to the grocery

store.  Mine are red.  Rosalee wears dark purple.  Mauve, she calls it.

.

We screech into the gravel parking lot of Jo-Jo’s Groceries.  Rosalee’s

Corvette is a bright yellow 1978 classic, fully restored and clean as a whistle.

Some rich old sap she met at the beach last year gave it to her.  He thought

she was going to marry him.

.

She also kept his ring.  And diamond studded sunglasses.  I can’t see her eyes

behind the dark lenses, but I know Rosalee’s not watching where she’s going.

She circles the Vette around the parking lot, flinging rocks and making people

hustle to keep from getting run over.

.

Rosalee is my beautiful first cousin.  She’s a…well, I don’t know what she

does, other than con idiots out of their money.  But she has a lot of time on

her hands.  Maybe turning her hick cousin into a world renowned poet is

Rosalee’s way of giving back to society.  So far, it’s not working.

.

Last month, Rosalee took me to the city where she lives.  I was supposed to

read my poetry at an art gallery.  Instead, I fainted before the readings

began.  When I woke up, I begged Rosalee to take me home.

.

Today, she’s trying a new approach.  Nothing poetic.  Nothing literary.

Rosalee’s helping me build my confidence in public.  Since there are no

other stores in my town, Jo-Jo’s Groceries is about as public as it gets.

.

“I still don’t see how dressing like a hoochie mama will make me confident,” I

say.  I tug at the top of my Marilyn Monroe wannabe dress.  I’m worried a

nipple will show.

.

Rosalee whips in front of the handicap parking sign and stops the car.  “We

can’t park here!” I yelp.  Rosalee takes off her sunglasses and looks at me.

Her eyes are green, with little flecks of gold.  I smell lilacs.  Lily of the Valley.

Ambrosia.

.

“Ever notice the people on the cover of poetry journals?” Rosalee asks.

“They either knew somebody or they blew somebody.  Or…they look good.”

She hands me a tube of lip gloss.

.

“But more than anything, they’re not surprised to be on the cover.  Get it?”

.

I toss the lip gloss in the cupholder.  Rosalee slides out of the Corvette, her

purse dangling on her wrist.  It’s one of those huge New York purses, and I

wouldn’t doubt if she had a little dog in it.

.

I struggle to get out of the Corvette without flashing somebody.  My feet are

already killing me.  I feel sweat between my toes.  Even the three hookers in

this town have sense enough to wear shorts and flip-flops.  It’s at least a

hundred degrees.

.

“If you want to be noticed, you gotta put yourself out there,” Rosalee says.

“Make sure the world never forgets.  When you write your bio, make it sound

something like this.”

.

Rosalee struts through the parking lot.  Have mercy.  I don’t know whether to

applaud or cry.  Suddenly, flutes begin to play.  I hear lines from Sarojini

Naidu’s The Snake Charmer.  I imagine a serpent rising from a wicker basket.

.

Rosalee’s legs are endless.  Her feet glide across gravel in six inch pumps.

Shiny, black hair bounces around her bare shoulders.  She hasn’t broken a

sweat.  The purple orchids on her short dress are stretched across her ass.  It

sways in perfect rhythm.

.

I stumble along behind Rosalee, trying to catch up.  I nearly fall down when I

step up on the sidewalk.  I feel like a freak.  I can’t stop looking at my cousin’s

ass.

.

The electric doors open for Rosalee.  We walk inside the store, and a puff of

cool air hits my face.  The place is packed full of Saturday shoppers.

Flat-footed housewives.  Good ole boys in their lightweight, summer plaid.

Snotty lip kids whining for candy.

.

A hush falls over the store.

.

I’ve got a serious wedgie coming on.  No matter how much I yank at the hem

of my dress, it feels like my rear end is hanging out.  Thankfully, nobody is

looking at me.  Every face in the place is gazing at Rosalee.

.

Without missing a beat, she grabs a cart and floats over to the produce

section.  Rosalee is poetry in motion, all fluid, all form.  The lines of her body

are graceful, but exciting.  She slides her cart forward.

.

The crowd parts.

.

People are smiling at Rosalee.  Sure, she’s making the men horny, and their

wives are mad as hell.  But there’s something else going on.  A weird kind of

respect hangs like electricity in the air.  She could be wearing a potato sack,

and it wouldn’t matter.  She is giving them the gift of Rosalee.

.

I tug to get a cart unstuck from the others.  At least I’ve got something to lean

on now.  Of course, the stupid wheel wobbles, and my cart squeaks and pulls

to the left.  I worm my way through the edges of the crowd.  Rosalee waves,

and a couple of people move to let me through.

.

Rosalee looks at me, disgusted, and puts her hand on her hip.  “Lesson

number one.  Don’t let chumps butt in front. ”  She moves her hips back and

forth in time with her words.  “Nice girls don’t get jack.  A little mouse gets

the pits that the rich girls spit.”

.

Rosalee drums her long, purple fingernails on a watermelon.

.

“Lesson number two.  All these watermelon are your poetry magazines.

Don’t take the first one that winks at you.  Go for quality.  See?  I want the one

that’s hard to get…waaaaaay in the back.”

.

She leans over the counter, stretching her legs.  Rosalee’s ass rises up high,

and I imagine Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese taking flight, announcing their place

in the world.

.

A man hustles over.  “Let me get that for you, miss,” he says.  He hoists the

large watermelon and puts it gently in her cart.

.

Rosalee glances at him and rolls her eyes.  Then she turns to me.  “And

another thing.”  She snaps her fingers in my face.  “Don’t thank them.  Please

and thank you for your time will land you in the servant’s quarters.  They

should be thanking you!”

.

Rosalee slides her cart over to the strawberries.  She plucks a fat one from the

pile and holds it under the water mister.  She brings the strawberry to her

mouth, and slowly closes her thick, glossy lips around it.  Juice drips on her

chest and trickles down between her cleavage.  I can literally hear every man

in the store gulp.

.

An old lady humphs and walks away.

.

“Now, lesson number…whatever.  To hell with the bitches.  Don’t worry about

what they think.  They’re bitches.  So go ahead.  Bite the big apple.  It belongs

to you, not them.”

.

She points at a pyramid of deep red apples, shining under the lights.  I stand

there, staring like a dunce, not knowing what she wants me to say.  I pick up a

cucumber and some bananas and put them in my cart.

.

Phhhhht! You’re a hopeless case!” Rosalee hisses.  She grabs the largest

apple she can find and sinks her strong, white teeth into its flesh.  She plops

the apple back on the stack.

.

Rosalee ignores me now and starts filling her cart with fruit and vegetables,

tossing aside the ones she doesn’t want.  She flings radishes.  She flicks

through grapes.  She swats sweet potatoes out of her way.

.

Neatly arranged displays quickly turn into a huge slushpile of mixed up

pears, oranges, and lettuce.  Kiwis and mangoes bounce from their stacks

and roll across the floor.  She doesn’t bother to pick them up.

.

When Rosalee gets what she wants, we make our way to the register.  She

pulls a wad of coupons out of her purse and shoves them at the cashier.  The

girl looks puzzled.  None of the coupons match what Rosalee has chosen.

.

The girl glances at the other cashiers, and they all bob their heads.  Even

though I know better, I believe it, too.  Yes, her coupons are good.  Yes, yes,

yes!

.

Rosalee swipes her card to pay.  She sashays out the door, her ass swaying

like a Wordsworth ballad.  Three bag boys fall all over themselves to be the

one to push her cart.

.

I pay full price.  My cucumber’s got a mark on it, as if somebody stuck it with

a fingernail.  A couple of my bananas are starting to bruise.  I thank the

cashier, who says nothing and thumps my stuff into a plastic bag.

.

At least I didn’t faint.  I limp back to the Corvette, and Rosalee’s standing

there with the car doors open and the air condition blasting.  She looks

bored.  The boys carefully load her bags into the trunk.

.

I can’t wait to get home and forget this day.  Never again will I let Rosalee

talk me into something.  I’m mad at myself for being so gullible.  This was just

one more way for Rosalee to show off and make me look like the fool that I

am.

.

I take off my pumps.  Large, white blisters have formed on the sides

of my toes.  I crouch down to touch them.  I wince and gently rub the skin

around the blisters.  I glance up.

.

Rosalee’s standing there with her hands on her hips.  I see the strangest

thing.  Maybe it’s the light.  Maybe it’s a weird angle.  I can’t believe my eyes.

Rosalee has a thick wisp of coarse, black…hair.

.

Under her chin?

.

Another image flashes into my brain.  Drunk Bukowski farting in the bathtub.

Bubbles rise to the surface of the puke gray water and pop.

.

Why didn’t I see Rosalee’s beard before?  She’s my cousin!  And I notice

everything else.  I notice mold on the sidewalk.  I notice pores on faces.  I

notice tree bark, ants.  Good Lord, I notice baby ants.

.

I study Rosalee some more.  Even her profile sort of looks like Buk.  She’s got

a little roll of pudge around the gut.  I’ll be damned.  I look a little closer.

There are varicose veins on her legs!

.

Rosalee sees me staring at her.  She glares at me.  Her eyes dare me to

question her beauty.  I have no right.  She doesn’t question herself.  Ever.

.

She swings her hips and slides easily into the driver’s seat.  Maybe I’m just

jealous.  Maybe the heat is getting to me.  I stand up and shake my head.  I do

feel dizzy.

.

Bukowski fades away, and Rosalee returns.  I must have been hallucinating.

Rosalee is a goddess.  I feel like a toad when I plop down next to her.

.

Rosalee revs up the Corvette.  Before I know it, we’re flinging rocks on our

way out of the parking lot.  That woman’s got talent.  And all the best peaches

in the store.

.

.

.

.

.

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Note:  A friend asked me to whip up a little response to Updike’s short story,    A& P.

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We love Updike’s story for many reasons, and in no way am I comparing my response to his story.  After all, I’m not Rosalee.  But I thought it would be fun to share.

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Have a truly beautiful day!

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Photo courtesy of Freerangestock.com

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Three of my poems are up at Trailer Park Quarterly.

There’s a lot of good fiction and poetry there, so be sure to check it all out.

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I love their style.  Edited by Daniel Crocker and Rebecca Schumejda (poetry), TPQ speaks to real readers.

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If you’re interested in submitting, you can read a little more about what they’re looking for HERE.

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You can read my poems HERE.

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Thanks for dropping in!

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Green As A Dollar

Hazardous Duty

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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Gator Jonson is the best worker we’ve ever had.  Unlike the younger guys,

he doesn’t whine about physical labor.  Sometimes he works inside

underground pipes.  Sometimes he hangs from ladders or operates

backhoes.  Other times, he’s on the side of the road, shoveling diesel fuel

spills.

.

Environmental cleanup is nasty work.  Our office has a high turnover rate.

The field workers are on call 24-hours a day.  They handle chemicals, mud,

sludge, oil, meth labs, shit, and sometimes blood.  College students often

come to work for the summer.  Many of them don’t last three weeks.  Gator

is here for the long haul.

.

The boss refuses to promote Gator to supervisor.  “That frigging hillbilly is

older than dirt,” he says.  “I need boys who can hustle.”

.

But I love it when Gator works a job, because I’m the office grunt, the

schmuck who pretties up this place on paper and sends it all to the E.P.A.

Gator turns in his field notes on time.  His paperwork is neat, and his

numbers are always correct.

.

Every day, Gator takes off his hat, peeks around the door, and I wave him

into my office.  The pants of his uniforms are ironed with a crease.  He is

soaked with sweat, but his shirt is buttoned to the collar.  Those are

company rules.

.

Gator has bright green eyes.  He has a long, gray ponytail, but his pork chop

sideburns are solid white.  When he hands in his paperwork, he always

tells me a joke.  Even when Gator’s jokes are corny, I throw back my head

and laugh.

.

“Have a good day, ma’am,” he grins.  Then he heads out the door.  His left

arm hangs a little crooked.  He is short and has a bow-legged limp from all

the pins and rods in his legs.

.

Gator was a poor boy from the Appalachian mountains.  When Uncle Sam

called his number, Gator went to Vietnam.  He became a Tunnel Rat.  He

crawled through tight, dark holes with a pistol and a knife.  Gator came

home from the war with a purple heart, crushed bones, and a lot of bad

dreams.

.

In those days, Gator drank too much.  Then he met a sweet, chubby woman

from Arkansas who set him straight.  They had five children.  Gator got a job

with a large cleanup company.  He bought a brand new trailer for his family.

For the next thirty years, Gator crawled through pipes and sewers, cleaning

up underground leaks.

.

Gator is the only one at this branch who is licensed to drive the vacuum

truck.  It is a large truck with a tank on back that holds thousands of gallons

of liquid and sludge.  Companies call for the vac truck when there is an oil

spill in a waterway or if waste in a factory tank needs to be disposed.

.

Earlier today, the boss sent Gator to a factory to pump waste from a tank.

The tank wasn’t leaking, but the liquid must be disposed.  As usual, I was

mad when I heard about about the job, because the boss didn’t bother to get

a Material Safety Data Sheet.  I had no idea what we’re dealing with.

.

So I made a few phone calls and found out that the tank holds some type of

acid.  I looked it up on the internet.  There was a large skull and crossbones

next to the information:  Hazardous material.  Extremely toxic.  Fumes will

cause severe burns to skin.  Corrosive to stainless steelOverexposure will

cause lung malfunction and death.

.

I printed off the safety information and ran into the boss’ office.  “You’ve got

to stop Gator,” I said.

.

The boss looked up from his computer.  “What?”  The screen was turned

sideways, and I could see that he was playing online poker.

.

I shoved the paper under his nose.  “Look at what it says!  Corrosive to

stainless steel!”  I was almost yelling.  The boss didn’t look at the paper.  He

gave me a long, quiet stare.

.

I sighed and tried to calm down.  “You know…the liquid you’re sending

Gator to suck out of that tank?  It could burn through the valves of the vac

truck.  Aren’t the valves made out of stainless steel?  Do you know?  The

fumes are hazardous.  It could kill Gator.  It could kill somebody in the

plant.”

.

When he still didn’t respond, I added “We could get sued.”

.

The boss looked at me without blinking.  His face turned red.  I could hear

the ticking of his clock above the door.  “You don’t need to worry about

what goes on with my men in the field.  It’s taken care of,” he said.

.

But I knew it wasn’t.

.

I went back to my office and spent the next two hours leaving messages for

Gator.  I paged him.  I called the factory.  A bored, female voice told me the

plant supervisor had gone to lunch.  “Look, can’t you page him?”  I asked.

“This is an emergency, damnit!  It’s a matter of life and death.  People in

your plant could get hurt badly or even die.”

.

“I’ll be sure to pass along the message,” she said, and hung up.  I called back

several more times and received a voicemail.  The message inbox was full.

.

An hour later, my phone was ringing off the hook.  A lot of impatient voices

wanted to talk to the boss.  Then Gator walked through the door.  He wasn’t

wearing a shirt.  His pants were hanging in strips.  Red marks across his

cheeks were turning into welts.  His right eyelid was swollen.  Blisters

bubbled up around one of his nipples.  The skin on his shoulders was a swirl

of red, black and purple.  Bits of blood dotted his chest and looked like a

thousand tiny stars.

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The acid had leaked from the hose as soon as Gator started pumping.  He

stopped the flow and capped the tank.  That was all he could do.  It ate

through his clothes before he could get to the emergency shower.  The plant

had to be evacuated.  His cell phone and pager stopped working.  Two

people fainted from the fumes.  He left just as the ambulance was arriving.

.

The boss leveled his gaze at Gator.  “An ambulance?  They sound like a

bunch of paper pushing pussies to me,” he said.  Then he chuckled and

handed Gator a little envelope.  “Here’s your paycheck.  That ought to make

everything good.  You’re not hurt, are you?”

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Gator glanced down at the envelope in his hands.  “Nah.  I’m okay.”

.

Gator hobbled off to the shop out back.  The boss went into his office and

shut the door.  He talked for a long time in hushed tones.

.

The phone in my office rang several more times for the boss.  Then the

phone rang for Gator and me.  Another plant on the east side of the county

needed a vac truck immediately.

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I knew Gator would go to the new job instead of the hospital.  The boss has

given several lectures about how our accident numbers are too high.  It

costs the company a lot of money.  Still, I wanted to urge him to go get his

burns checked out.

.

I found Gator in the back of the shop, sitting on an old bench, rubbing

petroleum jelly on his chest.  There was a fresh uniform hanging next to

him.  It was neatly pressed and ready for work.

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In The Middle Of The Night

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She played video games

on a dirty brown couch

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that reeked of Doritos

and sweaty ass.

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She pulled the heads

off her Barbie dolls

.

in a dark apartment

above Charley’s Bar

.

where her mother

turned tricks for crack.

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She joined the Army

to pay for college–

.

put on boots

and slammed

to Combat Rock.

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Now she sits on a

leather sectional,

.

sells adult toys

in Manhattan,

.

has 798 friends

on Facebook,

.

updates her page

with sexy videos

.

and hangs up

when her mother

.

calls bawling

in the middle

of the night.

-Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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The Man on The News Says It’s A Beautiful Day Today                             And A Mother Is Charged With The Murder of Her Toddler

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Sunshine and a dead baby girl

in the same breath from a man

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with slick hair and a suit, a hint

of a smile in his voice, a busty

.

blonde next to him, nodding.

Will this be the blue sky day

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when buds struggle to unfold

and either the man or woman

.

jump from their chairs, throw

open the window, and scream

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I’m mad as hell and not going

to fake it anymore?

.

Up next, a chemical suicide.

A local high school band

.

collects cans for a trip to DC

and a Doppler Radar graphic

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of clear skies from here

to eternity.

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Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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I Will Not Sleep At Night

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It talks too pretty–it rocks me,

wraps me, whispers me down

on my unbuttoned back,

and I am fool enough to love it

every time.

.

I am fool enough to let it

lick the warm, soft insides

of my brain, curl my toes,

break off my feet

in puddles, thick and deep.

.

Night sleep slaps me like a board,

crushes me down against the sheets,

tangles my breath,

makes me drool and beg

and rattle hum the sugar black hours

against my lips.

.

I will not sleep at night.

Its rhythm is too long and loud

and I am fool enough to love it,

let it send me spinning sweet and blue.

.

I am fool enough to let it

take me on the Freudian tour.

It kicks tin cans and says:

Look at this.  Honey, you ought

to be awake and trying to figure

this mess out.

.

It puts me on the bloody couch.

It makes me lose my teeth.

It puts concrete on my feet.

It turns into snakes.

Its food is tasteless.

It strips me naked in the lunch line.

It keeps me waiting at the train station.

.

And when I open my eyes, it’s gone.

I am alone in a gray washed room

with a rickety chair and a bare light bulb

hanging limply overhead.

.

It leaves me slowly rotting like old pork.

It leaves me thinking of all the things

I should’ve done–swollen fingers numb,

a dream thick tongue, used up and sour,

the side of my face looking

like a wrinkled, red sheet.

.

It leaves me laying in a plot

of leaky yellow sun, listening

to the neighbor’s chainsaw

.

barking morning sharp

barking morning hot

barking like a laugh

that just won’t stop.

.

So I will not, will not

sleep at night.

I’ll save my soul

until the boring

.

morning light plods in

like a second fiddle,

like a quiet desperation,

like a safe, gray gasp

against suburban windows.

.

Then I’ll sleep soft without thinking.

I’ll sleep dull without dreams.


Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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Before you read this week’s poem, just a friendly reminder…

The Third Age is still going strong!  Season One is drawing to a close, and more episodes are coming.  It is an awesome story and very exciting!  If you missed my other post about The Third Age, you can read my take on it HERE.

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My daughter, Amber, is the producer.  If you like watching the story “all at once” instead of in weekly segments, now is a great time to see it all HERE.

Go, Amber!

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I always think a lot about my daughter.  Her strength and determination are amazing.  Lately, I have also been thinking about all the strong women I know.  Many of them are older women.

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In the first Maudene poem I posted, I had a specific woman in mind as I was writing.  Maybe a couple.  But now that I look back on it, I think Maudene is a combination of several women, including my daughter.

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I also have a friend who could literally be Maudene when she is older.  I think I was writing subconsciously about her, too.  She is now the captain of a big ship.   She shows the men how it’s done.

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Here’s to all those strong women, no matter what work they do.  They come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors.  They move mountains and walk on water.  They are truly the salt of the earth.

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One Woman Working

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Maudene has worked the ocean

for seventy years—her big boots

balance firmly on the old bow

of a hand made shrimp boat.

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She knows the beat of engines,

the pull of ropes, nets, tide.

She knows the permanent roots

of mud on her palms, grease

on her cheeks, wind in her teeth.

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Maudene breathes each season.

The sting of horseflies and sun.

The growling water of a storm.

The sparkling backs of dolphins.

The softness of sharp August stars.

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She knows those bone lean years

when creditors circle at the dock,

when prices rise and profits fall,

when she eats wet cornbread

on deck for the long, hard haul.

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Her world is being swallowed

by condominiums and big ships.

But Maudene will not stop.

She will not gasp and die

beside a sun dried puddle.

.

She will live to sweat nets forever

in a faded, flannel shirt—her boots

a rock of ages on a creaky old boat.

One woman working, salt strong.

.

.Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


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