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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

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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

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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?

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Up next, a chemical suicide.

A local high school band

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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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Nobody Saw It Coming

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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Sweet Cheeks Jim

got drunk and broke

an empty bottle of

Mad Dog 20/20

and a bar stool,

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then carved up his

girlfriend’s face

under a streetlight

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in the alley

behind

Whitey’s Bar.

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We found her

an hour later

laying in the

sticky light

with no eyes.

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The cops found Jim

at his grandma’s

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eating cherry pie

and vanilla ice cream

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listening to

Coast to Coast

on the radio.

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The next night,

the news team

showed up

at Whitey’s

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and we all said

what a nice guy

Jim had been

in school

and nobody

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saw this coming.

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Then we sat there

quiet, staring

at our beer,

listening

to the ticking

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of loose screws

in bar stools

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trying to hide

the itch

of bullshit

in our eyes.

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This poem was prompted by a “brief” I read in a newspaper a long time ago.  It was just a few lines buried in the middle of the local paper about a little girl in a different region of my country.

I suppose the people who did the layout of the paper needed something to fill in a couple of inches of white space.  So she became filler.

It was before the day of the internet, and I was never able to find out anything about her.  The paper mentioned a rural setting with no neighbors.  Her house had no electricity or heat.  The girl was trying to start a fire in an old fireplace.  Officials on the scene concluded she went upstairs, because she was afraid.  The mother was out drinking with friends in a bar.  That’s all I know.

The little girl has haunted me for years.  I’ve met her many times since.  She has different faces, colors, and languages.  On many occasions, she’s a boy.  I try to help her when I can, but usually, I fail miserably.

After reading the brief on that long ago night, I went outside and howled at the moon for a while.  Then I wrote this poem.

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This poem published in Shoots & Vines.

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Waiting For Mother

by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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For the little girl who wanted to be warm.

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Waiting for mother was easier

before autumn crackled in

and ate the days up early.

It was my job to never cry

and light the living room fire.

I was six and alone with wood

and the sharp clear bark of cold.

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The wind tip-tapped

the spider crack windows

looking for a place inside

to build its nest.

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I knew Mother would come,

she would come home and see

me in the big of the dark,

clumsy with wood and the room

closing its teeth around me;

the naughty buds of fire

refusing to open and grow.

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The room smiled pumpkin warm

when I coaxed the fire to raise

its broken, bloody wings.

The branches fluttered shadows

like long lashes on the walls.

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Those nights were yellow glad;

I could play and wait, listen

to the purr of wind against the sky.

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I liked to watch the moon

scrape across the window.

I liked to tell stories to my dolls,

hold them close to the fire,

and watch their smiling faces melt.

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And the moon held me.

And the smoke held me.

And the long curly hair

of the shadows held me.

And the moon made me full.

And the fire ate my fever.

And the rise and fall of flames

sang me softly to sleep.

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Sometimes I woke up

when the fire left burning sores

on the tangled legs of branches.

Sometimes when I woke,

the moon rattled at the window.

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The cold was thorny

up and down my back.

The knots in the wood

stared like bad baby eyes,

and the clock was click click

clicking its high heels

in the crying midnight room.

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I knew when Mother came home,

she would come, singing red shoes,

the pretty side of her face

an orange fire glow.

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She would turn off the bad baby eyes

and the meanness of the moon.

She would listen to the falling leaves

and hear the angel wings with me.

She would fall asleep, and I

would rub her small, soft feet.

I would smell her lemon hair.

I would find her missing slipper.

I would kiss her warming temple,

never ever burn.

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Waiting for Mother was easier

before the greedy winter came

and chewed up all the wood.

One night, the wind slapped hard.

I only found the skinny twigs.

One night, through the click of cold,

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I filled the fireplace with dolls

and books, pennies, chairs,

stale dry blankets

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And I let the room catch on fire.

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Upstairs, on my mattress,

I waited for Mother

to creep up the wooden steps

and tuck me in.

She would come quickly.

She would come warmly.

I knew she would come home

and I would not be alone.

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And together we would listen

to the broken goodnight moon,

the glowing wind,

and babies

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falling from the sky.

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