Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

The Dying Song

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


We brought him home in a Hospice van,
unplugged the wires and made a bed
of mossy pine by the salt sweet shore.
Downwind of his huge and fertile garden,
he slowly bloomed inward, while we
held his hand beneath a live oak tree,
wiped his lips with watermelon hearts,
and watched while he tilled
that last black row.

The doctor had rolled his eyes:
I don’t have time for crazy hicks.
Let them take their bag of bones.
He won’t make it through the night.

He died for six more months
while summer thunder cooled his face,
and fall lapped small waves beside his bed.
We knew he couldn’t go, he wouldn’t go
until first frost sweetened the greens
and he was good and damned ready
to sing his dying hymn beside the shore.

He smelled like collards cooking
in an old black pot,
fat back and vinegar and salt.
How gentle those large, scarred hands.

Amazing the clay, he sang, so sweet
the birds hush their singing,
the salt still clings to the roses.
Those blue eyes breathe beside the water
those blue eyes keep breathing.
That saved a wretch a cough like me.
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
once was dead but now it grows.

Was blind, a man in a garden,
faceless under a hat, bending to scoop
a handful of black. A cough, a plough,
children run like scattered marbles.
But now I see the deep, dark green.

A broken hoe, unbroken smoke.


Julie Buffaloe-Yoder is a native of North Carolina.  Her work has appeared in storySouth, A Carolina Literary Companion, The Wilmington Review, The Panhandler , Pemmican, Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, and Grain.  

© Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012