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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Highway

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A Sunday Drive

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The road beside the window, dark with smoke,

grinds beside the glass, it growls, it grows.

Nothing but poles along the road to mark the time

and wires above our heads, thick with breath

and sweat and the pulse of Sunday voices.

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Your hard hands on the wheel hold tight

to some soft thought scraped from plates

then thrown with bones beside dry highways.

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We see nothing but graves rectangled with sun.

Nothing but fields and hills that slowly turn away.

Nothing but nothingness breathes and feeds

and falls across the ground to scrape beneath.

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It is too heavy, too loud, this echo of wind

when no more lights rise from the reeds,

when a baby doesn’t think of drinking bottled air,

when his thin life quickly opened, then closed

like broken breath from an empty chest.

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Outside the window, clouds swell their bellies

and trap us inside the faded white lines of a lie.

Past the point of turning back–this moment

is where we will remember our forever.

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Too numb to sleep, we will not stop the hum,

the breath, the spin of earth under wheels.

We make our way over those small bones

turned to stone, tossed like gravel, crushed

with glass on the side of an unmarked road.

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

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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.

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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.

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“There is no trail before me

but a rough, jagged path

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flows out behind,

slowly disappearing

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as the plants I’ve crushed

stand upright again.”

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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.

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

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“Most days, my mother

sat in the living room

knitting. Her sneezes

sounded like questions.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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“I am alone, crumpled

in a chair at the foot of your metal

bed, a cage trapping you in this life

a little longer…”

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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

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“leaving seeds that struggle

to grow among

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abandoned furniture.”

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 is the story of a beautiful woman who struggled with depression. In this poem, I allude to Lot’s wife from the Old Testament. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at evil (probably with longing) as she was being rescued by God’s angels from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

However, the woman in this poem longed to look back at something she never had. She felt immobilized by her own mind, her circumstances, and her relationships. Her love had become the pillar of salt from which she needed to escape.

The real life setting for the poem was during a Southern summer drought, one of the worst ones I can ever remember. The heat was oppressive and felt like a living entity. The only things moving at high noon were the shimmers of heat coming up from the ground and thousands of locusts all over the yard, the trees, the porch, even inside the house. The constant sound of them pinging against the window screens was surreal. I have never experienced a “plague” like that again.

Thanks once more to Robert Edwards of Pemmican for publishing this one in the early 90’s.

Her Lot

By Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


Summer hanging between her fingers,
she lays heavy in an unmade bed
listening to the locusts
throw themselves against the house outside.
Friction might make them spark--
winged flames in the bright gloom of noon.
Everywhere they move brown blades of grass
skeletons.
 
She must get up, sweep them across wooden floors
into a moving pile, wait for a husband
to come home from the fields
tobacco eyed and stained with the sin of locusts.
 
Summer creaking in her cupboards
and she can feel hot drops of breath
he harvests for her to put in jars.
She must wipe the counters, free
the struggle of a locust in a honey puddle.
Outside, they breathe and breed
under feet, under tires,
fed by sweat and the pulse 
of spinning engines 
in the living dust.
 
She must get up and wash away locusts,
hang them with rows of stiff, wet clothes.
She must watch them fall
from the dryness of pines
like dying stars.
 
Summer clenched between her teeth
and she can taste the rusty nail.
The slaughtered lamb of generations,
she will glaze her sweet, thick skin
and lay across the supper table.
 
She must get up and open the door.
Not eaten alive, she will fill her mouth
with locusts, give them birth,
walk across the wave of wings
growing in the sandy rows, 
hanging in her unveiled hair.
 
She must look back
once more to see him
in the tractored dirt.
She must look back
for just a glance
to see him
unmoving,
turning to sweat.

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