Posts Tagged ‘poetry of place’

The Storytellers

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

They tell stories they learned

in school, take off their shoes,

black out a tooth, put on

straw hats to look cute.


They hold their hands

the way the teacher

told them to


talk about possums

and articulate with

just enough

dramatic accent


to make the crowd

in the auditorium go

hee hee and a haw haw.


Then they get in SUV’s

and drive back to

gated communities.


Old Mr. Orrie tells stories

at the Fish House for hours

on a black dock that rocks

when waves lap against it


under a full moon that burns

a gold hole through heaven.


He carves a loon decoy

while he talks, sun hard arms

a criss cross of white scars.


Curls of wood fall

soft in the rhythm.

Feathers appear

with a whisper

of his hands.


When the spirit moves him,

Mr. Orrie picks up his guitar

and sings Lonesome Wind

for a while, then tells us


about that spring in ’48 when

a gale came down from the north.

It rained blue crabs for three days.


That was the first time

Mr. Orrie learned how

to catch a headwind and

make his shrimp boat fly.


Beside the neverending tale

of live oaks and salty roots


he didn’t once

talk about

possum stew


and he didn’t

go to school

or charge us

a rusty penny.



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I have a poem published at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.  A couple more of my poems will be there in the coming months.  I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time now.

But I was too chicken to send them anything in the past.  Rejection doesn’t usually get me down for long, but I would have been crushed if The Mule had rejected me.  Crushed.

The Dead Mule has a beautiful layout.  It contains a wide spectrum of people and some of the most innovative writing I’ve seen anywhere.  Period.  I am thrilled to be included.

You don’t have to be Southern or have Southern roots to get published at The Mule.  But you do have to submit a Southern Legitimacy Statement.  I had fun with my statement.  You can check it out HERE.  Click on my name for the poem.  It’s in honor of a very special lady and is a true story.

Or if you’re tired of hearing me talk and want to go straight to the poem, it’s HERE.  But please do stick around the Mule to read it all.  You’ll be glad you did.


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Last week, I met a truck driver who goes by the name of Ham Bone..I was thrilled to hear that Ham Bone and a group of truck drivers from out west like to read my work! .Seriously, that is one of the biggest honors I will ever have.

That’s what poetry is all about to me.. Poetry is not part of a secret handshake society, and it is not meant to be locked away in lofty, academic ivory towers.. It is meant to be enjoyed by the people.

Ham Bone is a philosopher, a gentleman, and a hell of an interesting political commentator.. He made me laugh, and that is the greatest gift of all..He also gave me an assignment.. I was to write a lighthearted political poem that is also not a political poem.

This one’s for you, Ham Bone. .Happy shifting.

Making History

.Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


For a fifth grade unit on

government, they made us

swamp rats put on shoes


and ride in a sweat-funky bus

to visit the legislative building

in Raleigh, sit in the galleries

for hours, and watch politicians

who liked to pontificate and nap.


This is a privilege, our teacher

glared at me over her glasses,

Don’t you dare embarrass me

by acting like a wild, crazy fool.


Me and Scoochie and the boys

hung over the balcony

of the huge white column room

enjoyed the echo of belches,

farted and threw spitballs

at Senator Jesse Helms.


We didn’t know who he was,

but he made us laugh the most

when he stood up, turned red,

pointed his finger at heaven

and hell and us.


Later that day, we were told

we brought shame to our class,

teacher, principal, mamas,

daddies, district, and Jesus

by being the only fifth grade

hell raisers in the history

of North Carolina to ever

get kicked out of the senate.


Our next unit was about

occupations–I wrote a poem

that made the whole class laugh

about how things will change

in that white column room

when my face turns red

and I get myself elected.



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Julie Buffaloe-Yoder.



I breathe clay, salt laced edges 

of a bank, jagged black–

a swamp’s reflected darkness.

Upside down the cypress grow

rooted to water, to sky.

Where is the beginning, the end?

Water has neither.


My soul is three fourths salt,

rusty anchors, rough red hands,

clay that smells of clouds

clouds that smell of water

foaming at the mouth of bays.


Salt marsh fertile with the rot

of logs, the dark green thick

of twisted trees, where blue

the herons breathe and breed

all fall, all washed clean.


Through the sneak of trees,

quiet bayous curve, then turn

to busy boated sounds.

Closer, the earth swallows.


I breathe the cypress.

Knotted shapes of faces

I have known

rooted in the mud for life.

If the roots are cut,

will the cypress die?

Or will they grow new knees,

water twisted, wet?

The water fills with dirt,

thick black asphalt, rows

of same faced houses.

Blue gilled thunder clouds

are growing; marshland

dying with the birth

of bulldozed earth.


We will be eaten, too.

Women who sweat nets,

men with bent backs,

shacks, little lapping boats,

all fall, all cut clean.


The bank will feed

the water clay;

drop by drop the clay

will make the circle break.

Quickly the water drinks.

Is that the reason

for the breath,

to die?


I sit with clouds;

multiply, divide.

Drop by drop the sky

will feed the water clouds,


on the changing surface.


Just when I thought

the puzzle solved,

I taste the clay again,

fall softly in the salt


and faces in the clouds

will float downstream.



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