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In late October, things looked bleak for my parents.  They both became very ill at the same time.

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Once again, we are learning how to hold onto the good moments.  There have been many.  My mother is doing somewhat better and was able to leave the hospital.

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My father isn’t able to come home yet.  My parents have more rough days ahead of them.  They will also have many good days.

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But this is not a eulogy.  They are both still very much with us.

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What looked bleak is not necessarily bleak.  It’s just an adjustment.  My parents’ ability to adapt is inspiring.  Their strength is amazing.

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This poem is in honor of my father.  I have a new one about my mother, but it’s not ready to show yet.  I’m quite neurotic about what I show here.

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Anyway.

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My father taught me a deep love for woods and water.  One of my favorite memories as a kid was riding in my father’s boat with him.  He would turn off the engine, and we would float for hours, not saying a word.   There was no need for words.   The water said it all.

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My father has the ability to erase himself and become part of the natural world.   He taught that to me.  It’s much more than just a stroll in the woods or an appreciation of nature.   It’s a physical rising out of yourself and becoming part of that world.

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Does that sound crazy? I know it probably doesn’t make sense.  I don’t mean that we literally worship nature.  We see God’s hand in the beauty.  The feeling is hard to describe, though.

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Our family jokes about how my father and I are “hermits,” because we can both sit in the woods and not move for hours at a time—day and night.

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It is funny when I imagine how I look–sitting like a stump in the woods.  But I don’t think it’s weird.  I think it’s beautiful.  I think it’s one of the reasons we were put on this earth.

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And my father passed this gift down to me.

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How To Become A Live Oak Tree

Or Things My Father Taught Me

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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Weave

your breath

into the sway

of Spanish moss.

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Hear all small

rustles

inside fallen logs.

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Seep into

the veins,

the cracks.

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Climb damp vines

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higher and higher–

hold each

burnt edge

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of every star.

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Love

the muddy tip

of Raincrow’s

feather,

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the husky musk

of black bears.

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Spend hours,

days, years

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quietly watching

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the inner ridges

on a purple

mushroom,

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the flutter

of swans

rising

over marsh.

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You will become

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a crisp whisper

of black bark,

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stirring roots,

the live oak.

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Photosynthesize

in the dark.

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Strong and wild,

undying,

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you are

this moment,

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a never-ending

present tense–

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uncurling, growing,

ever expanding

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your soul,

scattered ash

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over floating

notes, rolling

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like an echo

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repeating

each seed

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full

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of the breeze

for eternity.

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Black River – near Ahoskie, NC – by Julie

Cypress Swamp – NC – by Julie

Cypress Knees – NC – by Julie

Bald Cypress – North Carolina – by Julie

Trailer Park Quarterly

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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Coyote Beautiful

A friend asked me to do a blog post for a project she’s creating.  I’ll tell you more about the project once she launches it.  I’m not sure if I should talk about it now.

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My friend is cool about re-posting.  I love cool people.  Anyway, I thought I’d share my blog post here.

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If you’re one of my blog friends, the “anti-internet” sentiment isn’t directed at you.  Please don’t take that personally.  I tend to post according to what I feel like talking about on any given week.

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This week, I needed to be reminded of the peaceful moments.   And I love coyotes.

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Connections

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I turn on my old computer tonight.  It takes fifteen minutes to grind, burp, and finally connect.  I check my e-mail.  I have three Facebook friend requests.  I have no clue who the people are.  They don’t bother to write a note.

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The computer hums and whines.   It smells like plastic.  I want to throw the damn thing through the window.

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Instead, I grab my CD player and go outside.  It’s dark—the beautiful thick black of a rural Carolina night.  I root around in the tool shed and find my flashlight and camping axe.  I chop up some old logs and branches.  Pretty soon, I’ve got a nice fire going by the woods.

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I go back inside to the kitchen and get four pieces of catfish and a cast iron skillet.  An oven mitt and a spatula.  I find some home brew in the fridge.  I take it all outside to the fire.  I have an old porch chair to sit on.  It’s somewhat damp from dew, but it has a nice padded seat and leans back just enough for a good view of the stars.

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Before I know it, the smell of catfish cooking over my fire fills the air.  I sit down and pop open the top of a cold home brew.  Kell Robertson is singing Cool and Dark Inside on the CD player.  The fire casts a large circle of light on the ground.

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This is the only connection I want right now.

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Suddenly, I hear a loud rustle of leaves.  I smell the musty scent of something wild.  A dark creature comes loping out of the woods toward me.  I think it is a coyote.  I jump up and grab my camping axe.  No coyote in his right mind would run toward a fire.  I think he must be rabid.

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The animal trots up to the circle of light and stops.  Yes, it is a coyote.   My heart thumps in my throat.  I clutch the axe, ready to swing.  The coyote sits down on the ground.  He looks at the fire.  Then he looks at me.

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He’s the skinniest coyote I’ve ever seen.   All legs and head.  Even in the dim light, I can see his ribs.  His fur is matted and greasy looking in some places. In other places, he’s bald.  Half of his right ear is gone.

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Coyote leans down on the ground and puts his head on his paws.  The light of the fire makes his eyes glow gold.  Then he flips over on his back and shows me his belly.  I swear, he’s sucking it in.  This coyote’s not rabid.  He’s smart.  He can smell catfish and a bleeding heart from a mile away.

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I sit down in my chair, still clutching the axe.   I’m not quite sure what to do. I’m a country girl.  I know that feeding a coyote could be a death sentence for him.   He’ll get too used to people.   He’ll get bold.   He could become dangerous.  He might end up going after the farmer’s calves down the road. Or a pet.  Somebody will kill him.

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I should swing the axe and scare him away.  I should go inside the house, get a gun and shoot it in the air.  I should bang a pan with a spoon.  Whatever it takes to make him run far away.

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But he’s so skinny.  I just can’t do it.

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Coyote flips back over on his belly and slides a few inches toward me.  I put down the axe.   I turn the catfish so they won’t burn.  His big eyes watch my hands.  He slides closer.  He whimpers.  Just a little.

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By the time I take the pan from the fire, Coyote is only about five feet away from me.  I can see his face now.  All the sorrow of the world is spilling out of his eyes.  Whenever I move my hands, he swallows.

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I break off a piece of the catfish.  It is charred on the outside and flaky white in the middle.  I take a bite.  It tastes good—like pine bark and smoke.  Coyote flicks his tongue and swallows.  He sighs.

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I sigh, too.  “Here, you nasty beggar,” I say.  I fling a piece of the catfish toward Coyote.  Before the fish has a chance to hit the ground, Coyote swipes it up with his long tongue.  He swallows.  It’s gone.

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He moves closer.

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What the hell, I think. I’ve already started feeding him, so I may as well do it right.  I go back inside and get the rest of the catfish in my refrigerator.  Four more pieces.  He waits patiently by my door.

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I spend the next two hours feeding Coyote.  I bring out a pack of hot dogs.  A leftover pan of macaroni and cheese.  Some squash casserole.   Rocky Road ice cream.  Wilted celery.  A pot of turnip greens and hamhocks.  Cornbread. Three raw eggs.  He eats it all as quickly as I can give it to him.

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When I have nothing left to give, Coyote lays down next to the fire.   His belly is rounder now.   He doesn’t look quite as mangy as he did before.  Now I’m starting to wonder if he’d let me brush his fur.

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Coyote falls asleep.  He starts snoring loudly.  The side of his mouth is turned up as if he’s grinning.  I fall asleep in my chair.   I dream I’m running through the woods with Coyote.  We leap over logs and slosh through the swamp.  We run and run, always one step ahead of the law.  I look down, and I am running on four legs.  They are long and rangy.  My four legs are strong and fast.

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I wake up, and Coyote is laying on my feet, curled around my ankles.  I can feel the thump of his heart on the tops of my feet.   A full, gold moon is rising through the trees.  The moon makes the woods look like they’re on fire.

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Inside my house, an old computer burps and whines.  For a minute, I think maybe I should go inside and turn it off.  But it will probably get hot and crash by itself.  Right now, I’ve got a coyote keeping me warm.

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I’ve got peace that surpasses all understanding.  I’ve got the moon and the stars and the universe humming through my veins.   I’ve got a mangy friend who found another grinning fool to love him.  I’ve got poetry curled around my feet.

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I’ve got this moment.  I am connected.  This is enough.

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Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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The Last One On The Island

Miss Sopa

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Sopa Abraham Botswana Jonson

b. 1907

She knows the best clay to eat

is through woods by the shore.

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Slick on her tongue, blue-gray,

smooth, it rumbles like thunder

between her time tough teeth.

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She names the wild horses

that eat grass by her shack–

loves them like her people

who are all dead now.

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She’s the last one left

on Grandmother Island,

the last one to smell sweet

magnolia rotting on the path.

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The last one to weave baskets,

laugh, tell ghost stories, scrub

her clothes on a washboard.

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She feels the spirits of kin

sway in mossy live oaks.

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But her eyes are too old

to see bright lights grow

on the deep pink horizon.

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She does not know the high

market price of her heritage.

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She cannot hear real estate

snakes slither on the edges

of her quiet island, waiting.

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Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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Miss Sopa was originally published in Plain Spoke

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For another Miss Sopa poem, click HERE.

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To read some background about the great lady who inspired Miss Sopa, click HERE.

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Inheritance

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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Every morning, for thirty years,

she comes into Dodie’s Diner

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and tells the same story

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to the tired-eyed waitresses

who bring her free refills

of cheap, black coffee.

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On and on the story goes

about a father who died

with cirrhosis of the liver

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in that dumpy house

across the alley

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and a sister who took

the lion’s share

of the inheritance:

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a silver mirror,

a four poster bed,

some china,

a chiffarobe.

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Every year, her hair gets grayer

and she adds layers to the tale,

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buffs it, shellacs and shines

that grudge until it has grown

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into a living, breathing beast

she keeps on a leash to trot

into the diner at six a.m.

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Now to hear her tell it,

the house was a palace,

her sister, a witch,

her old man was a prince

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and she’s a Cinderella

whose pumpkin got squashed.

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She won’t leave a tip.

She’ll just ride that nag

into the dust, for hours,

steam rising up

around her lips,

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the ghost of stale, bitter

coffee on her tongue.

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Then she’ll stop talking

and stare

at the empty pack

of Lucky Strikes on the table,

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her jaw locked like a pit bull’s,

her knuckles white from gripping

the chipped handle of a mug

for so long.



GOOD READS

If you come here and read more than two words, you’re probably a lover of poetry and fiction.  You’ve hit the jackpot this week.

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Here are a few good reads (in no particular order).  I hate to put them all on one post, because they deserve much more attention.  But if I wait until I have time to do them all justice, a year might roll by.

Some are just coming out.  Some I meant to shout out ages ago.  They’re all good.

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….Poiesis #4:   I just ordered a copy.  Woot!

Poiesis #4 is a poetry chapbook (compilation of various authors), edited by leah angstman of Propaganda Press.  I’m not going to wait to read it before I recommend it, because everything leah does is awesome.  I know it is good.  And it’s only four bucks plus shipping!

You can get all of the details about Poiesis #4 and easy ordering  HERE.

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No One Gains Weight In The Shoulders

by leah angstman. Propaganda Press.

 

 

 

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Some Misplaced Joan Of Arc by leah angstman

Propaganda Press

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Yes, leah is an excellent poet, too.  I love her voice and her style.  Some Misplaced Joan Of Arc blew me out of my seat.  It is one of my favorite chaps of all time.  But I love both of these poetry chaps.

Propaganda Press titles are affordable, which is one of the reasons I’m a big fan.  But the MAIN reason I’m a fan is that they are good.

Order No One Gains Weight In The Shoulders HERE.

Order Some Misplaced Joan of Arc HERE.

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The Map of Our Garden by Rebecca Schumejda.

Verve Bath Press.

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……Falling Forward by Rebecca Schumejda.

Sunnyoutside Press.

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The Map Of Our Garden is fantastic–and probably one of the most physically beautiful chapbooks I’ve ever seen.  It even comes with a bookmark in a pocket on the inside back cover.  It’s obvious the editor takes great care with what she presents.

I do love it.  But I wouldn’t mind if Rebecca’s words were written on a paper bag.  She is an amazing poet.  The beautiful presentation just makes it that much more of a pleasure. 

Falling Forward is equally as beautiful.  The poetry is excellent.  I plan on coming back to tell you more about both of these books.  But why wait for me?

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Order The Map Of Our Garden HERE.  Scroll down and take a look at the images of the chap.

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Order Falling Forward HERE.

Take a look at some reviews and information about Falling Forward HERE.

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And read a great review of Falling Forward at

Open A Real Book Reviews.

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You can also see more of Rebecca’s books at her site.   The next must buy on my list is Dream Big, Work Harder.  I love that title!

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Male, Pale and Old:  16 Outstanding Men of the Small Press.

Edited by Jenifer Wills of Literary Mary, this online journal is exactly what it says.  Outstanding.  Powerful work.  And it’s free to read by clicking HERE.  What more do you want?  Great work that’s free!

Be sure to read it all.  And read Jenifer’s introduction, which explains how she came up with the name for the zine.  It’s right on.

I love the cover, too.  The desk sort of looks like mine, but it’s a lot neater than mine is.

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….Blood & Irony by Joaquin Carvel.

Available at LuLu

Joaquin is one of my blog friends and is an awesome writer (both poetry and fiction).  Joaquin has heart and soul.  I dig that.  I love Joaquin’s voice and stories.  We are on opposite ends of the country, but Joaquin feels like kin.

You can order Blood and Irony by clicking HERE.

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You can also read more of Joaquin’s work at Lyrics and Maladies.

Joaquin also has a poem recently published at The Smoking Poet.

And another excellent poem at Deuce Coupe.   Coffee Machine is one of my all-time favorite Joaquin Carvel poems.  Go read it now.  You’ll see what I mean.

And be sure to check out Blood & Irony.

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………..OUT ON A LIMB by Ed Galing

Propaganda Press

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…………..DINER by Ed Galing

Propaganda Press

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Have you ever read a poet’s work and felt as if you would really like that poet as a person?  I don’t know Ed Galing, but I wish I did.  He’s open and honest, and his words always stop me in my tracks.

Ed Galing has been through many things (born in 1917), and his poems tell it all.  I love his work.

Order OUT ON A LIMB HERE.

Order DINER HERE.

OUT ON A LIMB and DINER are also Propaganda Press chaps, and you can find more of Ed Galing’s books in the catalog.

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Now Might As Well Be Then

by Glenda Council Beall

Finishing Line Press

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Glenda Council Beall is one of North Carolina’s finest poets.  I know that’s a big statement to make, but it is true.  She doesn’t waste a word, and her poems are pure music.  Glenda’s poetry touches my soul.

But you don’t have to be a Southern writer or poet to enjoy Glenda’s work.  It reaches across all geographic boundaries and paints a picture of humanity.

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You can read more of Glenda’s work at Writing Life Stories.   Scroll down to Glenda’s October 6, 2010 post and read the poem Tomato Man.  You’ll see why that’s one of my favorites. 

Tomato Man was the winner of the 1997 Clay County Arts Poetry Contest.  It is also included in Now Might As Well Be Then.

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You can also read more about Glenda and read her poem Miracle of Love at Scott Owens’ Musings.  I love how he calls Glenda a “MVP” or “Most Valuable Poet.”   It’s so true!

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Order Now Might As Well Be Then HERE.

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Adopted Behaviors:

Flash Memoir, Short Stories & Flash Fiction by James R. Tomlinson

Motor City Burning Press.

James is another one of my blog friends, and I know him as JR of  JR’s Thumbprints.  Now, before you go thinking I just shout out people because I know them from my blog…take a look at his site.

James Tomlinson works as a teacher in a Michigan prison.  He sees more in one day than many people see in a lifetime.  Week after week, I wonder how he does it.

His words are powerful.  James Tomlinson is one of the best flash fiction writers I have ever read.

And the book is only four bucks!  Motor City Burning Press does a great job of bringing us good reads at low prices.

HERE is one of James’ recent stories at Staccato.

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The first story in Adopted Behaviors is posted at Sleet Magazine.   It is called The Trigger Man and His Accomplice, and you can read it HERE.

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You can also read more by checking out his site.  Click on his link and look on the right sidebar for places where his work has been published.

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Anything Kell Robertson has ever written.  Okay, I just had to mention Kell Robertson again.  You knew I would didn’t you?  He’s the greatest.

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Speaking of Kell, check this out.  Yep, it’s him.  Cool and Dark Inside is his song.  I have the CD, and it’s awesome.   I don’t know who Bob is, but I love him for making this video.  It’ll probably look weird here, because I don’t know what I’m doing.  But take a listen if you can.

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There are many more books I want to tell you about.  But there’s just so much my squeaky wheel can do in a free hour.  I’ll try to be better in the future.

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Be sure to bookmark the links.  I highly recommend it all.

Thanks for reading!

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Of Mules & Mothers

My mother came of age during the era of Elvis, bobby socks and poodle skirts.  But her reality was much different than what is often portrayed in the media.

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She was a farm girl.  Her family had a mule for plowing the field.  Their old truck had to be cranked by hand in order to get it to start.   It often didn’t.  They had no indoor plumbing.

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She began working as soon as she was old enough to pick cotton or crop tobacco.  In her world, if you were old enough to carry a burlap sack, you were old enough to work.

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When her mother died, she also became the “woman” of the house.  Survival for the family meant that there was little sympathy for kids.

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Despite all the physical labor, my mother went on to get her degree.  She also values education for her own children.

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My mother’s strength is amazing.  She doesn’t sit back and moan about what she didn’t have.  Many of her memories are good ones.  I love her stories.

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She also doesn’t dwell on SELF.   When I was a child, she often took me with her to visit strangers in nursing homes and at a mental institution.  It was a big lesson in compassion and understanding for me.  But that’s not why she did it.  She genuinely cared about the people.

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She laughs a lot.  She sings beautifully.

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I’ve heard her say many times that she has never done anything great.  I respectfully disagree.  She has done far greater things than I will ever do.  I am very blessed to have her.  I am so proud of my mother.

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This poem was inspired by her story.

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The Mule Sat Down

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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Mama died last night

on a cotton planting moon.

Eighth grade has to wait

for the pale thin girl,

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the oldest daughter

in overalls and braids–

now graduated to

hard-booted woman.

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She plows behind

a huge brown mule.

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There’s a wake to plan,

chickens to kill, pluck, fry,

biscuits to roll, seven

little brothers and sisters

with knotty hair to comb.

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But the mule just sat down

in the middle of the row.

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She tries to coax him

with sugar lumps,

pretty honey words.

That fool won’t budge.

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He smacks his lips, sits

under a noon-white sky,

breathing slow, as if

all the time in eternity

just rolls down those

hot, gritty rows.

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There’s Mama’s body

washed, waiting, laid

out in her Sunday best.

Thirty eight relatives

will arrive by nightfall.

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Little blue butterflies

swirl like demons

in front of a

young girl’s face.

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But the mule still sits

in the middle of the day.

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She kicks that mule,

but all he’ll do is make

an indignant UMPH.

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She sits on his back, bites

his long ear hard, gets

stinking, nasty, no good

mule fur between her teeth.

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His big brown eyeball rolls

toward the dust-red barn.

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There’s a broke down truck,

potatoes to wash, floors to mop.

Good Baptist girls don’t cuss,

but if she had a firecracker, she’d

shove it up that mule’s fat ass.

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She feels like crying, laying down

on the sand, turning to root,

sprouting cotton from her hands.

Instead, she knows she must

hitch up a woman’s heavy load.

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Now folks riding down

her long hard road

slow down to watch

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the skinny little girl

pull a plow

like her life is on fire

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while a big brown mule

sits and watches and waits

for another day to die.

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This poem was originally posted at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature (March 2009).  Be sure to check out their latest issue.

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My mother’s story is good now.  She gave birth to a beautiful, brilliant, talented daughter who never gave her any problems and is always quiet and respectful.  My sister.

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A Tip Of The Hat To Crazy

I wrote this poem just for fun after a relative told me she had joined the Red Hat club.  She said it’s a club where ladies get together, wear red hats and have a good time.

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She said I’m not old enough to wear a red hat in their club.  I’m not sure what the age requirements are.  But women who are younger than the red hats can join the club and be little sisters in pink hats.

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Well, harumph.

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Yes, my indignation is feigned.  I’m not really much of a group person.  I don’t know anything about the Red Hat club.  I have nothing against anybody who wants to celebrate life.  It sounds great.

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Plus, I ain’t about to disrespect them and get a zillion women mad at me.  That would be nuts.  The “lady” requirement would probably get me banned anyway.

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But it did get me thinking about what my hat will look like…symbolically speaking.  Or what it looks like right now.

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I might not be ready for the red hat, but I’m surely not a kid.  Ask the kids who live down the road from me.  They’ll tell you I’m older than the dirt under Methuselah’s toenails.  I think I’ve earned the right to wear it.

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This is my daughter’s worst nightmare, because she knows I’m going to do it.  Maybe someday when I’m older.  Or maybe this weekend.

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My Hat

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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When I am old enough

to earn the right

to wear a hat,

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I will not join groups

or sip Pinot Noir

in air conditioned

living rooms.

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I will wear

a psychedelic

go to hell..hat

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lit up with

sparklers

and spinning

neon pink

azaleas.

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I will dance

with stray dogs

down the middle

of Main Street

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in the biggest

most bodacious

funkalicious

Super Freak hat

imaginable.

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People will say,

The poor old thing

has lost her mind

under that wide brim.

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I will just grin

like a rabid

Cheshire cat

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shedding sequins

and flames

on their little

same streets.

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My hat will have sirens.

My hat will have bat wings,

whirligigs, pink flamingos.

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It will play Old School Rock.

Shoot confetti from a cannon.

Quote poetry over loudspeakers.

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Crows will fly

out of the top

of my hat

and form the words

PISS OFF

in the setting sun.

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On that hallelujah

wrinkled cloud

blue vein day

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when I have finally

earned the right

to wear my hat,

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I will be

a dancing

billboard

for the joys

of adulthood,

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a statue of liberty,

a cowgirl in the sand,

a one-woman band,

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a kiss my ass

celebration

of all that is holy,

crazy and aging

and me.

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P.S. to My Relatives –

No, I don’t mean I want people to go to hell.   You know good and well what a  go to hell hat is.   You’re from the South.

I mean…Yes, Ma’am.  You’re right.  I’m wrong.

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P.S. To Everybody – Symbolically speaking…what does your hat look like?

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What Naomi Told Her Daughter

When the Kids at School

Called Her a Half-Breed

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder.

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Take these roots.

Chew them slowly.

They are close to bone,

sinew, tissue, womb.

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Braid them in your hair.

Taste the ticking wood,

the synchronicity of cells.

Watch them softly twist

through slices of moon.

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No microscope can show

the rings they carve

in your spine, the humming

of particles—each piece

.

a moving world, a color

singing on the tips

of a blind man’s fingers.

.

This legacy

is rhizome,

a curling inward,

an umbilical cord

stretching back

across oceans.

.

Cut them and they

will grow fourfold.

Fight and they will

tighten around your soul.

.

Listen to the pumping

of rocks that rumble

underground, the lift

of concrete, a drop

of hot wild seeds

in the dark wet earth.

.

Take these veins.

Give them birth.

Let them birth you.

Melt this twisting river

on your tongue.

.

You will become

that woman,

cypress strong, covered

in the warmth of blood,

.

turning to root

only you can name.

.

.

Carolina Cypress Swamp by Julie

Spider hanging out – by Julie

North Carolina Cypress by Julie

Workers’ Compensation Blues

.

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

My head

is pounding

from fighting

for a month

.

with the boss

who told

Leon Jonson

he’d get fired

.

if he filed

a claim

for Workers’

Compensation.

.

My head

is pounding

from trying

to convince

Leon Jonson

.

who has

a sick kid

and another

in braces

and another

in glasses

.

and an arm

that’s black

and blue

and broke

.

that he’s

got rights,

too, damnit.

.

.

The above poem was originally published in Big Hammer #13 (edited by Dave Roskos of Iniquity Press).  You can find Big Hammer and many more excellent reads from Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books HERE.

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I highly recommend Dave Rosko’s work.  You can read some of his poems HERE.  Powerful words.

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And here’s another must read from Iniquity Press.  If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve heard me talk about Kell Robertson.  Some of my male friends tease me about my flaming arrow reference in that post.  Sometimes, I can’t help but act like a girl.

.

Anyway, I like to bring his work up as often as possible, in case any new folks are reading here.  Kell Robertson is one of my favorite poets.

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Watch out for those flaming arrows, boys.

.

Thanks for dropping in.

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