Posts Tagged ‘life’

large_the_bones_of_saints_under_glassSometimes, a book of poems comes along that is beautifully written, but it also portrays life in a way that is very personal to me.

The Bones of Saints Under Glass by Jeff Fleming is one of those books.

The poems in this chapbook deal   with death, love, and family relationships.  There is sorrow sprinkled with bits of joy.  There is the death of a mother.  There is the beauty of young sons.  It is real.  It is the story of life.


Jeff Fleming paints a vivid landscape with an economy of words.  Each word is carefully placed within the landscape.  In the title poem, the narrator is hiking.


“There is no trail before me

but a rough, jagged path


flows out behind,

slowly disappearing


as the plants I’ve crushed

stand upright again.”


Near a cluster of yellow flowers, the narrator sees the skeleton of a small bird, bleached white.  Like all of the poems in this book, it is a moment in the palm of a hand.  But it is so much more than that.  The moment echoes with questions and observations about life.


Ratchet is a poem that tells the story of an “ordinary” day.  Even an ordinary day paints the larger picture of a family.


“Most days, my mother

sat in the living room

knitting. Her sneezes

sounded like questions.”


The poem then pivots to the father.  With a wonderfully light touch, Fleming shows us the divide between father and son.  The father takes the son out to the garage on weekends and patiently explains “the intricacies of everyday/machinery…”

The narrator ends with a gentle understanding.  “It was the only poetry he had.”


Each poem in this book breathes.  The subjects are universal.   No matter who we are or where we are born, we all have to deal with relationships and the loss of loved ones.  Jeff Fleming does it in a way that is not overly dramatic.  It touches me in a way that I can apply to my own life.


Of course, not all of the poems deal with death specifically, and all of the poems make me think.  But as we pass that “invincible” age, many of us begin to think about death in a different way.  I am fortunate that my mother is alive.  I have acted very immature during the death of other loved ones.  When the time comes for me to say goodbye to my mother, I hope I can remember the wisdom in these poems.


Swimming in Beauty and Light shows the physical death of the mother and how the narrator deals with the pain.


“I am alone, crumpled

in a chair at the foot of your metal

bed, a cage trapping you in this life

a little longer…”


There is deep pain.  There is beauty in the physical act of dying.  And there is also acceptance.  The narrator thinks of how others will deal with his own death.


“They will see me pass

and sadness

will overflow their hearts

and consume them for a time,

but when they break the surface

of pain and breathe the world

anew, the sky will seem washed clean,

Cradled by life,

they will own their days again.”


In the end of the poem, the narrator imagines himself in that “otherwhere” with his father and mother.  They will be “swimming in beauty and light.”


Even with resolution, the questions and pain do not end after a physical death. Orphan Poem One punched me in the gut for many reasons.  The narrator’s cell phone rings.  It is the narrator’s mother.  The mother begins to talk.  She even acknowledges a couple of the narrator’s questions.  But the narrator cannot understand what she is saying.  She is dead.


The last poem in the collection, Empty Farmhouse, leaves me breathless.  An old house was abandoned when the crops failed.  An apple tree has been blown over by a storm, and it leans on the house.  Yet it continues to grow apples and drop them into the house through an open window


“leaving seeds that struggle

to grow among


abandoned furniture.”


Like the seeds that struggle to grow, we are left on this earth when our loved ones are gone.  But there is beauty, even in death.  There is joy as the next generation takes its place.  And there is the comforting thought that someday, we will swim together in that beauty and light.


I’d better stop myself now, or I’ll examine every poem in the book.  Whether you’re a dorky language nerd like me or someone who just enjoys a good read, I highly recommend The Bones of Saints Under Glass.


I should also mention the great cover art, which was done by Hosho McCreesh.  Hosho is another poet on the top of my list.


You can order the The Bones of Saints Under Glass HERE.

Note the low price!!!  I am a HUGE fan of Propaganda Press.  The work is high quality, and the prices are affordable, which puts poetry where it belongs.  In the hands of people.


Jeff Fleming is also the editor of nibble, which is an awesome poetry magazine.  Be sure to check it out.  A new issue is in the works.


And as always…

None of us poets are jack squat without you, the reader.

In other words, I appreciate you very much.  Thanks for reading!


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This poem was inspired by an essay my daughter     wrote about her Dad when she was a kid.  It was called Superman.  I wrote the poem a few months ago.

Ruth Pennebaker’s July 21st post reminded me of the poem.  Ruth is a wonderful writer, and I come away from her site with much food for thought.


©2005 Amber Yoder                                                                                             Exquisite Flaws


The above picture is from a gallery Amber created about scars.  The gallery contained photographs and stories about people with physical scars:  cancer survivors, a World War II vet, children who had come to the U.S. for surgery, etc.

Amber also put these scar stories in a book she made herself called                     Exquisite Flaws.

The gallery showcased the beauty of scars.  Yes, beauty.  It was a physically beautiful presentation.  The stories were fascinating.

Contrary to what some people think, “survivors” are not pitiful.

My jokes are by no means intended to downplay the seriousness of the subject.  I mourn the friends I have lost.  We are not special people just because we continue to breathe.  Obviously, I still have many fears.

But humor has been a big part of our story.  I hope it always will be.


Superman Part II

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


I never knew cancer

was funny

until you named

your IV pole Rod.


Rod was a man of steel

down cold, white halls.

He never left your side.


The nurses who poked too hard

were Ratchet, Brumhilda, Big Bertha.


You were Frankenstein after chemo,

hardly able to bend your knees

to walk to our old, hot Dodge


also called The Batmobile.


When they put you

in the sterile room,

the man next door died


so you joked

about tapioca–

your kryptonite,


my crazy cat eyes

behind the mask,

my pink fingernails

touching you

through lead gloves


the thin film

of the bubble


the glow of your

yellow-green skin

your skull, your bones.


When blood counts

in the last stage were

so low it was not

humanly possible,

you turned into

Dracula’s cousin.


Over a decade later,

you tell me a joke

about a politician

and The X-Men

at the doctor’s office.


Yes, it is really over.

Yes, it is really gone.


Now new villains

hover in a bubble

on the horizon.



Bad credit.

The bread line.


The growling worry

of getting put

in the woods

with werewolves.


Still, you come

through the door,

brown eyes blazing

after sixteen hours


of sweaty work

at a crappy job.


Under bright

kitchen lights,

you puff out

your chest

and suddenly

I have no fear.


Captain America

has arrived.


Let the big screen

bring it on, baby.

We’ll kick ass.


Or else

we’ll die




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