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Archive for October, 2008

A friend introduced me to Kell Robertson’s poetry when I was a kid. I was thunderstruck. Sure, I had heard of Kell, even before I read his work. People used words like cowboy, underground, or outlaw to describe him. But that’s not the first impression I had of Kell’s poetry. I was amazed at how well he portrays the human condition. Kell writes about people I know, and his voice sent a flaming arrow straight to my soul.

Kell Robertson speaks my language–the voice of the working class, the strong, aching backbone of the world. Here is a poet who’s not a poser, a poet who truly knows what the word hardscrabble means. And it is beautiful, damnit. Not contrived or stereotypical. When I read Kell Robertson’s poetry, the pages in my hands sing.

You don’t have to be working class or a cowboy or a lover of campfires to appreciate Kell’s work. Anyone can love lines like these from his poem, Song:

“A mad old man staggering down the road

mumbling to himself of bones and promises

of bells that ring in his heart at night

and corpses that actually sing to him

from beneath the rocks of silence”.

I’m surely not a reviewer, because everything I try to say about the poetry of Kell Robertson comes out sounding like a high school groupie screaming in the front row. Freaking awesome poet are three words that instantly come to mind.

So, I’d better leave the reviewing to the professionals. Here’s a really good review by Todd Moore about Kell’s latest book, The Goofy Goddess On The Wall. The above passage from Song is from this book. Of course, you probably know that Todd Moore is also an excellent poet.

Check out Todd’s review HERE

Outlaw poetry and free jazz network is a great site, so stick around there and read it all.

To order Kell’s book, send $5.00 to Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books, POB 54, Manasquan, NJ 08736. Dave Roskos is the editor and can tell you much more than I can. All I know is that I have read the book at least fifty times, and yes, the words still sing.

Kell is also one of my favorite musicians. Here’s a link to a video posted by hipbilly on Myspace Videos of Kell and Jason Ecklund playing and singing. I wish I had been there. Watch the video HERE

Check out Pathwise Press for more about Kell’s books.

A sample of Kell’s poetry from The United States of Poetry (World of Poetry) site can be found HERE

Here’s a great Lummox Press Interview with Kell by RD “Raindog” Armstrong (also inspired by Todd Moore). After you read the interview, go to their home page and check out the awesome stuff going on there, too.

Mike Good and the Blonde Boy Grunt & The Groans site also has more information about ordering Kell’s books and/or CD’s. Another very cool site.  I’d also love to hear them play.

If I’m not crediting everyone correctly, please set me straight, and I’ll try to fix it. I don’t know what I’m doing three fourths of the time, especially here.

I could go on and on about my admiration for Kell Robertson’s poetry. But it’s closing time now. So let’s just have one more round and one more song in his honor.

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Family Reunion

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

There’s a first grade boy

in a Superman t-shirt.

Freckles, brown cowlick,

two front teeth missing.

Broken arm, black eyes.

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There’s a father, thirty five,

blue suit and tie, new shoes,

pretty shaved face, saying

all the right things in

Anger Management class.

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There’s a mother

too scared

to say a word.

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There’s a social worker

who says it’s her job

to reunite the boy

with his father’s fist.

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A buddy told me I need to lighten up on the poetry theme for this week.  So I dug through my Stack O’ Crazy and found this ditty from last year.  It’s sort of light gray with a pinkish hue.

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Back To School Shopping

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When the semester’s over,

private college kids

throw away

three-month-old junk

they don’t want to lug

back to mum & dad’s.

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Couches, chairs, computers,

printers, scanners, designer

label clothes and shoes,

canned food, vacuums,

twelve packs of Heineken,

televisions, remotes, DVD’s.

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Books they’ll never read.

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Have mercy, I’ve died

and woke up in Macy’s

with enough name brand

laundry soap, shampoo

silky feeling conditioner

and mango raspberry

body wash to last

this working girl

six sweet months.

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I’m glad rich kids

are stupid.

I graduated from

dumpster diving

with Honors.

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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When someone I love more than life itself was seriously ill, he said two things I’ll never forget.  He said he hated it when people treated him like a prophet or a sage, just because he was sick.  He also said he could handle the days when he woke up in great pain, because the pain let him know that he was still alive.  

But wait…there’s a happy ending here.  He has been completely well for years now.  

I still think he’s a sage. 

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Edges

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

Waking with a disease creates edges.

Edges of light around closed curtains,

beneath my morning door, the promise

of hospital corners, angular faces

with masks, the knife.

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Edges are safe.

Without them, there is bottom,

beneath a cliff no one has seen,

the other thing I must avoid

by breathing.

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Edges can be lovely, a dull hum,

the gentle bleeding of a tongue,

waking underwater shades of gray

puddled voices in the hall,

behind dark doors

elbowing slow into my sleep.

On those days, I can tolerate

pointless conversations about rain,

the spin of earth, breath, sky.

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Sometimes the edges are angry,

a thousand thumping veins,

the drip of drops

in the crook of my spine.

On those days, the edges bite

my ribs, blacken my eyes, shove

slow blades beneath yellow nails,

swell the glands in my neck like fists,

leave me on bended knees, praying

by the bloody toilet, panting

under sweaty sheets, loving

every thin blue breath.

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On those days, I cannot stand

the petty crusts of burnt bread,

neighbors with toothaches

and complaints about my dog.

Only the edges matter.

Only the edges are real.

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When the edges weaken,

the slice of sheets grows small

and I am floating face down,

a jellyfish drying in sun.

The day is a rendering of skin,

lines that sift slowly, broken feet,

stopping an elevator between floors

to be able to breathe alone, in peace.

The nights are bright in the bathroom,

mirror sharp, thickening

red stars on the floor, crescents

of moons beneath my eyes.

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No one understands why I love edges.

The edges are always there

in the pillow, the glass, the jagged trees,

each deep sharp blade of green. 

The edges are mine.

So full. So full of me.

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Life is not circular.

The earth remains flat.

The bottom, not so far away.

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I can live with edges.

Edges are good, even those

that have eroded.

When I see splinters

of sky in the window,

when I taste the sharp

dark blood of my tongue,

when I hear the broken echo

crumble across the canyon,

I know the rocks have fallen

instead of me.

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For lack of a better term, I’m calling this one a short story. It’s really more of a sketch. Maybe a rant. I met this woman and her little girl this week, and I wonder what will happen to the girl in a few years. I’ve never seen a more miserable eight-year-old in my life.

They were part of a caravan of mothers and daughters on their way across the country to some kind of beauty pageant.  Nope.  Little Miss Sunshine this ain’t. 

The big topic of discussion among the mothers was what product to buy to spray on the little girls’ asses to keep their bathing suits from riding up.  Little girls’ asses!  I’m still reeling from that one.   

Mothers.. Please.. I’m begging you. .Stop. .

There are enough screwed up women in the world already.

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An Ungrateful Daughter

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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…..All I ever wanted to do was help that girl. The money I have spent on her! Ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics. All those cute little outfits at two hundred bucks a pop. A professional makeup artist. On my salary. Running around to the local events. Then County.. Regional.. State. .All those trips in sweaty vans with all those no-talent brats and their snooty mothers. I worked overtime, on my hands and knees, to pay for those contests. Virginia, Texas, California—my little girl won them all. Without even trying.

…..What a beautiful baby she was. On day one, I looked into those big blue eyes and saw something special. A shining star above all the rest. It was like God said to me, “Jennifer, I took your mother when you were five. I gave you a drunk, no account father. I stole your childhood and made you work like a mule. You had to drop out of high school before your sixteenth birthday. You married a man you didn’t love to get away from your father. But now I’m going to reward you for all that heartache. I’m giving you the perfect little girl.”

…..My girl could sing like an angel. She looked like one, too. Everybody on both sides of my family has frizzy brown hair. But my girl was a real blonde. Golden. Corkscrew curly blonde hair bouncing around those sweet pink cheeks. People couldn’t stop admiring her. And not just family, either. Total strangers stopped us in the street to ooh and ahh.

…..Then she had to go and get chunky. Sure, every girl has an awkward stage, somewhere along about ten or eleven. But no matter how many calories I counted, no matter how many exercise classes I enrolled her in, that girl just kept eating nonstop. Out of spite. Nobody in their right mind unwraps a stick of margarine and eats it like an ice cream cone. But she did. It doesn’t matter how much makeup you put on a pig, well…chunky girls don’t make professional cheer squad.

…..Then there are the years I don’t even want to think about. Other women got to take pictures of their cute teenage daughters in strapless homecoming gowns. I watched my daughter stagger in the house, reeking of smoke and alcohol. If she even came home at all. Those weirdos she hung around with changed her. “If you lay down with dogs,” I tried to tell her. But she ended up in juvenile detention, no matter what I said. Then there went more money for lawyers.

…..And the purple hair. Oh, God! The night she shaved it all off and told me…her own mother…to go to hell. It was like the devil was standing in my living room, blowing smoke out of her nose. Then all that money I spent on all those shrinks. That fancy mountain retreat where they said they’d cure her. She ended up finding more drugs there than she did on the street.

…..Now she finally decides to get her act together. Thirty two years old. Still ungrateful. Still rolls her eyes and snorts when I open my mouth. I guess every mother has crosses to carry. Believe me, I’ve heard a lot worse on talk shows. Kids see too much violence on TV and those video games. Drugs are everywhere. It’s a wonder any of them ever come out okay.

…..They’ve got her on some new nerve pills, and that has helped a lot. She still looks pretty good in makeup, considering she’s over thirty. As for all the things she could have done, well, there’s no need crying over spilled milk. Her ship has sailed.

…..At least we can laugh nowadays. We go shopping. I buy her nice ladies’ dresses or we get botafirm facials done at the mall. It makes us feel like young girls again. Today, we’re having the baby’s portrait taken at a professional studio. She’s an auburn haired beauty. Only the best for my granddaughter. Now that one—she’s my real heart.

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They Bill Him Out

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They named him Bird Dog

in Vietnam; he flew home

with silver rods in his arms

and a purple heart he won’t

talk about to save his life.

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He started drinking

with a good stout blonde.

Dreamed of owning a hog.

Grew porkchop sideburns,

a garden full of greens

and six kids raised

in a lopsided trailer

on Credence,

macaroni and cheese.

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Now he works Haz-Mat

Emergency Response.

24/7 he’s ready

with boots and a pager

and a face respirator.

He cleans toxic waste

with a half broke shovel

when the EPA calls his boss.

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Each grease hot hour

on the side of the road,

in a tank, underground,

in the thick, black air,

they bill him to the client

for a hundred twenty bucks.

They pay him twelve.

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Boss buys another boat.

Bird Dog goes fishing

on a muddy riverbank

with a cheap six pack

and ten grandkids

til the pager beeps and

they bill him out again.

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

 

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People keep telling me how much I’m going to love the movie, Nights in Rodanthe. How can anyone who’s been around me for more than five minutes think I would love a gush flick starring Richard Gere as a screwed up rich dude? “Go watch the trailer,” they say. “You’ll really be able to relate to it.

Yeah, yeah. People told me the same thing about Sweet Home Alabama, so I was instantly suspicious. But I googled the movie trailer and watched part of it. Here’s a five point comparison of how much I have in common with Nights in Rodanthe:

1. I’m from North Carolina. The film was shot in North Carolina. Okay, I’ll give you that one. 

2. I have been to Hatteras Island and the surrounding area many times with friends and some tents. Rodanthe is a beautiful place, rich in history. The surf is awsome. Amazing lighthouse. The locals are friendly, good people. But wait…this movie’s not about Rodanthe, is it?  Too bad.  That would be a cool movie.

3. The trailer preview began with a gigantic mansion built on sand. Anybody who really knows me is hee hawing on the floor right now. The places where I’ve cleaned toilets aren’t even half that fancy. I think it’s supposed to be an “inn.” What a quaint little getaway. If the hurricane blows it away, I’m sure they’ll be first in line for FEMA money. Nope. Can’t relate to that, either.  We did get some free shingles one time after a hurricane.  Sometimes they just blow into your yard.

4. There’s a doctor. Oh yeah, I can REALLY relate to his world. Next.

5. Mr. Doctor meets a lady and there’s some kind of relationship boo hoo stuff going on. Is it just me? Or does anybody else smell vanilla yogurt?  Or lettuce?  I like stories with gravy, extra thick.  Stories that leave a grease stain on the plate.         

I couldn’t even watch the whole preview, so I know I’m being mean. Sorry.

Maybe I should have stuck around to see if they have a maid with an attitude who serves the doctor blue crabs. Now there’s somebody I can relate to.

Jeeves, hand me my lyre. I feel a verse coming on.

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We Leave The Beaches For Tourists

by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

Let them have the new white path.

We’ll keep our old black road.

We’ll keep the marshes, the bays,

the clam loved mud, the scaly

smell of fish house sweat.

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We’ll keep the hard blue hands

of net menders, carvers, pickers,

oystermen, crab pot makers.

We’ll keep little wooden boats

churning foam, the musk of nets

hanging with vines in front yards.

We’ll keep the grit in our teeth,

the red bent backs of generations.

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We leave the beaches for them,

the growing rows of condos,

swift internet access, dry stack

marinas, three story malls.

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We’ll keep the slow turn of fans

in the heat, mosquitos, the creak

of sticky wooden floors, stepping

in the sweet shit of wild horses,

pickled smells of general stores,

old fishermen who sit on benches

and tell outrageous stories.

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Let them have country clubs,

golf courses, famous actors,

casinos, beachside showers.

We’ll keep green garden hoses

and a beacon that opens and closes

its bright midnight eye.

We’ll keep sharp September stars

and the soft secrets of girls

growing up on salt water.

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Let them have all that.

We’ll keep all this.

But all that keeps

moving closer to

our old black road.

How quickly

it all erodes.

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