Somewhere In These Woods

Somewhere In These Woods

For Marty


A diamondback rattler

sheds her skin on the path.


She rubs her nose over

sticks, rough red rocks–


slides and curves across

the moss of fallen logs.


Bit by bit, she exposes

those black gems


slick with the newness

of a thicker rhythm.


She will not transform

into puny blue wings.


Undulating muscle

will become


a six-foot long

version of herself.


Queen of venom,

born again


in dead pine straw,

she will multiply


then curl up, unseen,

in puddles of sun


sleep with her eyes

wide open,


flick scents of dinner

beside gopher holes.


Yesterday left on the trail

like a crumpled up note:


somewhere in these woods,

she grows bigger every year.

-Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


Juvenile Copperhead in a Carolina river (photo taken by Julie).



-Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


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.



“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



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,



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



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.







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


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.


Have a truly beautiful day!


Big Barbie


Has black plastic trash bags

taped over the windows

in her single-wide trailer.


Three hundred pounds

of Triple D axle grease,

Big Barbie’s got a tattoo

of a dead cop on her ass,


short white spike hair

black boots, tunnels

in her ears; she rides

naked on her Harley

in the middle of the night.


Big Barbie knows pipes,

transmissions, belts,

better than any damn man.


She likes to play rough

with pretty little dolls,

knock off their heads


and leave them laying

in a dumpster behind

Angel Mae’s Bar.


She’s got the best acid

in Chatham County.

Don’t go to Big Barbie’s

unless you’ve got cash.


But once a month

when her pipes get funky,

she sits by the window


and thinks about how

her stepfather raped her.

She thinks about the baby

those bastards took away.


Big Barbie cuts her arm

with a rusty razor;

tweaks while she bleeds

into black plastic space.

-Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


This poem originally published in Don’t Call Me Plath.



Cover image ©iStockphoto.com/ChuckSchugPhotography


The Suitable Girl by Michelle McGrane

Pindrop Press


The suitable girl wears many faces.  She is mythic, and she is contemporary.  She mourns.  She is sensual.  She walks on water.


I felt like a kid at Christmas when my copy of The Suitable Girl arrived in the mail.  I know Michelle McGrane is an excellent poet, because I’m a big fan of her work.  But this book even surpassed my expectations.


Edited by Jo Hemmant of Pindrop Press, the poems in The Suitable Girl are beautiful and powerful.  The often startling images are sharp and unique.


This collection of poems offers so much variety!  Whether you are interested in shorter pieces or prose poems, mythic voices or modern day scenes, you will find it all in The Suitable Girl.


As a poet, I cannot help but marvel at Michelle McGrane’s technique.  Her stanzas are well measured but don’t feel forced.  Her poems are musical, and she echoes sound throughout entire pieces.  The narrator’s voice is different in every poem, from a straight-talking beat style to elegant prose that rolls across the page.


But I’ll try not to bore you with my urge to give a nerdy, technical analysis.


Listen to her stories.


You will meet Madame Bovary in this book, as well as Black Oak’s Daughter.  There is also the story of Glauce’s bridal robe, poisoned by Medea.                 The Bee Man tells a story in eleven succinct lines. The Suitable Girl even sends postcards from the moon.


The voices in this collection are strong.  The dialect in ‘Terra Marique Potens’ is fantastic. The narrator is a force to be reckoned with, powerful on land and sea.  She gives birth aboard ship and then fires a muzzle at a “flinty crag of a man bawling like the divil hisself.”


All of the poems in The Suitable Girl are excellent.  Some of the stories are heartbreaking.  In Skin Offerings, the narrator describes a young woman’s anorexia and self-mutilation.  4:00 am tells the powerful story of a young mother who is battling for life.  She leaves her mud hut to walk twelve kilometres to a government clinic for treatment.  She hums a hymn and wears a gaily-patterned headscarf, an astounding symbol of her unbreakable spirit.


Other poems are humorous.  The Escape Artist, a “Lord of the Fleas”  runs off “with the ringmaster’s silver weimaraner.” One of my favorite shorter pieces is The Recalcitrant Muse, who fires up a cigarette and could use a drink and a few hours’ sleep.  This muse is late for an appointment with a middle-aged divorcée.  She is also a muse who realizes that “immortality doesn’t pay the bills.”


Did I say beautiful?  Well, take a look for yourself at the sample poem below.  The Suitable Girl has many faces.  Sometimes she whispers her stories.  Sometimes she speaks with her tongue in her cheek.  Sometimes she screams.  Each one of her voices should be read again and again.



She Walks On Water

by Michelle McGrane


The air is heavy with salt spray and kelp.

The seagull’s tongue is dumb.

Dark hair hides the face

of the madonna on the beach.


Hands like silver starfish

lift a long skirt, reveal pale knees;

a cerulean scarf flutters in the breeze.


She turns away from

the promenade’s ice-cream smiles

and waving kites,

shrugs off the dirty-weekend hotel

moored in the harbour’s embrace.


Her spirit becomes a sail.

Her eyes are the horizon.

Her bare, white limbs shine

with phosphorescence.

The stars lean over to plant kisses

on her forehead.


In the morning haze,

wisps of fog drifting in with the waves,

she walks on water.


A blue strand washes up on the sand

among splintered timbers, plastic wrappings,

sodden cigarette butts.

Perched on a guano-stained mast,

the seagull keeps her secret.


The above poem and quotes are © Michelle McGrane 2010 and used with permission.  Please contact Pindrop Press or the author for permission before reposting.



From Pindrop Press:

Michelle McGrane was born in Zimbabwe in 1974, spent her childhood in Malawi, and moved to South Africa with her family when she was fourteen. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of Fireflies & Blazing Stars (2002) and Hybrid (2003). She lives in Johannesburg and blogs at Peony Moon.


To order The Suitable Girl, click HERE.

It is well worth the low price.


Questions In Black & White

A couple of dear folks will worry, so I should add a disclaimer with this one.  I wrote the original version of this poem when a loved one was first diagnosed with cancer.  That was years ago.  He’s fine now.  All checkups continue to be good.

Not everyone is so fortunate, and we are no better than they are.  I only share these stories because I am thankful.  Remembering is the least I can do to express my gratitude.




Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

It is the story of your life,

pinned on a screen, your insides

lit up, discussed in hushed tones

by a man who is late for a meeting.


He sees deficiency, fissures, cells.

You see your mother’s red hands,

a river sliding past summer cabins,

mildewed faces on window screens,


shafts of sunlight through cracks

on the day your daughter was born,

graduation caps, unpaid bills, a man

drinking cold tea in an unlit room.


This is not the denouement

you had written for yourself

at a creaky midnight desk

while counting the seconds

between rumbles of thunder.


It is a lie too soon, a white flash,

a pumping bloodroot,

a story with no resolution.

A black spot on a silent film.


The doctor clears his throat,

looks at the clock above the door

and asks if you have

any questions.



Story Quilt

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

The women sew stories

at sunset on the porch,

an old wicker basket

full of fabric by their feet.


There’s a square of green

from the gingham dress

a girl wore when she first

kissed a boy by the river.


Here’s a gray head rag,

stained with sweat

by a grandmother who

plowed the jagged back

of this black mountain.


Those bits of blue denim

are a father’s overalls.

He lost a leg and died

working the railroad.


That piece is from

the wedding dress

mother made with

a white lace tablecloth.


This strip of yellow

was a blanket, dotted

with brown circles

of blood and covered

a chicken feather mattress

where babies were born.


Four bright pink ribbons

belonged to the twins

who came out holding hands.


A red checked apron

fed thirteen children

with two catfish

and three stale loaves.


Each piece, a meaning,

a patchwork of souls

threaded together

by generations

of callused fingers


on a front porch

between live oaks

and wisteria vines–


the lingering smell

of warm cornbread

from the oven.


Gold and purple sunset

stretched across the sky.




I’m excited to have a brand new book of   poetry in my hands–THE LINE BETWEEN by Mark C. Durfee, aka The Walking Man.      Mark is my friend.  I’m proud to tell you that, because he is also a poet with a voice that is strong and honest.  Mark’s work comes from a place deep inside the bones.  Always, it is real.


The Line Between is the second book in Mark Durfee’s trilogy from Motor City Burning Press.  I’m sure many people remember Stink, but on the off chance that you missed it, be sure to check it out, too.  You can read my take on Stink HERE.


Cover Photo By Justin Harris


The Line Between is not as dark as Stink, but it is equally as powerful.  While Stink focuses on life in Detroit, The Line Between gives us the human condition–not  necessarily from a specific location, but from the human heart.


The book has a haunting and beautiful cover by Justin Harris, who is an amazing photographer of abandoned spaces.  The cover is a great complement to Durfee’s poetry, which rises up like an echo of life.


As Mark Durfee describes on the first page of his book, the line between is that line we all walk from birth to death.  Sometimes the line is a zig zag.  Sometimes, it curves and takes us to places we never dreamed we’d be.  The way we act and the people we touch while we’re on the line is what matters.


The book is divided into sections, which refer to different stages or “lines,” and logically begins with children.  In the first section, It Might Have Been A Wonderful Life is a small, powerful poem.  It reminds me of the horror in Stink, in that a mother places her baby in a microwave because she


“…mistook you for the bottle

she was going to feed you,

to shut you up with

so she could go

pass out again.”


Yet in the same section, we see the beauty of childhood, as in the piece, Small Happiness, where the narrator watches children who are holding hands and spinning:


“They had just discovered

the loveliness

of being wondrously dizzy.”


A poignant section of the book deals with the “Lines of Age.”  It contains the title poem, which was inspired by the author’s grandmother and is a gentle portrait of a family matriarch as she reaches the end of her life:


“Comforted by her cup of tea

half gone, cold now, she dreams.

She has her chair turned towards the sun,

letting it warm her as she dozes,

snoring softly, occasionally smiles,

in her early afternoon sleep.”


As a poet, I enjoy Mark Durfee’s portraits of people.  I also appreciate his surprising twists of language and phrases.  Eyes In The Back Of My Head contains one such twist.  Instead of just walking an edge, the narrator walks along the knife’s edge, as really, we all do:


“I walk the knife’s edge,

the honed side, and am still amazed

that my feet are not cut to ribbons

with each step.”


There’s no way to truly do the book justice here, because Mark Durfee’s work should be read out loud.  In I’ll Have Mine With Chemical Sprinkles, Durfee describes our modern society’s obsession with feel good consumerism and takes us on a wild ride of sound with lines like:


“Start it with love for the Valium vellum

which allows not for the touching of the feelings

but the excretion of them so we’ll forget

what it was that was wrong that needed our dealing.

Piss on non-prescription pad paper.

Wipe yourself with Prozac then no emotions matter.”


I would love to hear that poem read out loud!


The Line Between is an excellent addition to your poetry collection.  My copy is becoming dotted with small smudges and is getting creased where I have turned the pages so many times.  I accidentally left a dog ear on page 57 when I was reading the poem to a friend.  It smells a little like my friend’s cigar.


Those small marks and scents are the highest compliment I can give any book.  It doesn’t just sit on the shelf.


For information on ordering The Line Between, click HERE.

The cost for The Line Between by itself is $10.00.

As a special, Stink and The Line Between can be ordered together for $18.00 total.  It’s well worth the low price.