Sunday, February 15, 2009

Featured Writer: Julie Buffaloe-Yoder Day 3

Buster Peacock & The House of Many Colors

When the city of Freeville

widened the highway,

they didn’t plow down

a single shingle in


White Pointe

Golf Crossing.

Instead, they took

Buster Peacock’s land.

A blind old black man

in a felt blue hat

with a sagging shack

on twenty acres of

scrub pine and sand.

That house was old

even in Jim Crow’s day

when Buster carried

his sweet Veleetha

over the threshhold,

felt the angles of her face

the curve of her hips,

a perfect place for babies:

Buster Jr.


Little Toot.

Buster Peacock could feel the color

of four rooms with his fingers, the tips

of his toes—the brown creak and sigh

from tired floorboards at night.

The way the feather bed felt

like cool water blue when

the breeze blew gauze curtains

over Veleetha’s sleeping face.

That little red place in the doorway

where Scoochie bumped his head

when he got so tall, the gold notches

where Buster Jr. carved his name,

the yellow dip in the hallway where

Toot liked to slide in socks.

The silver click of the cuckoo clock

exactly eight steps from a gray hum

from the refrigerator, the green smell

of the breadbox on a hot June day.

The city could not understand

why Buster cried so hard

over a broke down shack.

They gave fair market value.

But they didn’t care that

you can’t place market value

on a breadbox or children

grown or a wife passed on.

The day they moved him

to a retirement home,

the dozer crushed

through his front door.

Buster could feel color

all over again.

Waiting For Mother

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.

The wind tip-tapped

the spider crack windows

looking for a place inside

to build its nest.

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.

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.

Those nights were yellow glad;

I could play and wait, listen

to the purr of wind against the sky.

I liked to watch the moon

scrape across the window.

I liked to tell stories to my dolls,

hold them close to the fire,

watch their smiling faces melt.

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.

Sometimes when I woke,

the fire left burning sores

on tangled legs of branches.

Sometimes when I woke,

the moon rattled at the window.

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.

I knew when Mother came home,

she would come, singing red shoes,

the pretty side of her face

an orange fire glow.

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.

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,

I filled the fireplace with dolls

and books, pennies, chairs,

stale dry blankets,

And I let the room catch on fire.

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.

And together we would listen

to the broken goodnight moon,

the glowing wind, and babies

falling from the sky.