Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scarecrow in Gray in Front Street Reviews

Reviewed by Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of Pemberley Remembered

The title of this novel, Scarecrow in Gray, refers to the soldiers of the Confederacy who are reduced to fighting in uniforms that are little more than rags. Because there is so little food left in the bleak landscape of what was once the Confederate States of America, these undernourished men fight one hopeless battle after another in an unwinnable war, and their lack of food has given them the appearance of the scarecrows guarding their now abandoned farms.

This is the story of Francis Marion Yelton who did not go off to war. The war reached into the distant mountains of North Carolina, carrying him away from his family and farm into the maelstrom of the last desperate months of the Civil War. The author, a descendant of Francis Yelton, a private in a Confederate regiment, has expanded on family lore to tell the story of a man who probably realized the war was lost even before he arrived in training camp. From the filth and tension of an Army camp to the terrors of Petersburg and the long hard road to Appomattox Courthouse, Barry Yelton recreates with measured prose the desperate battles of the closing months before the Confederate surrender in April 1865.

In the midst of unspeakable horrors, he keeps his character tethered to a saner world by frequent references to the natural beauty around him: “The night it was a vast obsidian dome infused with sparkling points of light.” Mr. Yelton has the soul of a poet, but his beautiful prose is not at the expense of detailed and horrific descriptions of the battlefield where brave, but outnumbered, Confederates await the next Yankee onslaught: “Then we heard it, the low roar of the blue ocean, coming out of the woods, then the pounding of thousands of horses’ hooves.”

Scarecrow in Gray is reminiscent of Cold Mountain and The Black Flower and is a compelling tale of one man’s attempt to do his duty while preserving his humanity.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

News Flash - The Dead Mule

Two of my poems have just been published by the online magazine of Southern literature, The Dead Mule. You can find it at If you like quirky, you'll love this site. Happy reading.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lugoff, by Barry Yelton

Copyright 2008

in a broke down little place
just off the interstate
west to nowhere
summer heated sidewalks
burn the soles of small
brown feet
stepping quick
in front of mama
into the laundromat

and dark seamed faces
stare blank
from the half shaded porch
of a tumbledown grocery
hands of mill and field
of a thousand tiresome yesterdays
and the smoke from cigarettes
curls upward
and aggravates the flies
buzzing slowly
in the dense summer air

seems distant somehow
he thinks
that long lost past
living in another time and place
when joints didn’t ache
with arthritis
and calloused hands
did hard work all day
and caressed the body
of his woman at night
when energy surged up
and life seemed sweet
distant now
far away in a
wearisome place
a man is too tired to even dream of
a lost place
lost in the haze and the heat
years ago

the cigarette burns slowly down
until the sting causes him to drop it
on the dirty boards of the porch


over yonder in the shade
of a dusty old oak
a flop-eared hound
sums it all up
with one,

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Golfer, by Barry Yelton

In a long curving arc
it soars
gleaming in the sunlight
racing over the green grass
the towering pines
and lands
with a splash.

He mutters imprecations at the vile thing
the day growing darker
and after two birdies on the front nine
and the fruit of a successful wager
dangling like a golden carrot
He curses again at his fate
Twelve over par for the round.
The tragedy of it all

One can only but weep at the sight
of the golfer
resplendent in his khakis and golf shirt
easing into the soft leather of his Mercedes
defeat and despair etched on his face
The day was a disaster
embarrassed and harassed
a C-note poorer
he slowly drives to his home near the club

The gardener waves cheerily
as he comes up the drive
but he doesn’t see
The seven bedroom colonial
seems to mock him today
the polished marble and hardwood
seem cold
He lost

Wearily he trudges up the winding staircase
the crystal chandelier glowing warmly
fails to lift his spirits.
Booting up one of his five PC’s
his portfolio he eyes
The tragedy continues
down five hundred grand
almost five percent for the year!
To the liquor cabinet for the twelve year old Scotch
succor just a few steps away
the broken man finally
finds relief

Walking to the window, Scotch in hand
seeking comfort in the long expanse of lawn
The azaleas are in bloom
and the songbirds sing sweetly
but alas his gloom is not broken
He watches the gardener
lucky man that he is
What care does he have?
He did not shoot eighty today!
He did not lose 4.7% of his portfolio this year!
Oh the unfairness of it all!
Look at the man
working in the sunlight
cheerful and smiling

Ignacio trims the hedges just so
sweat streaming on his brown, smiling face
unaware of the angry gaze of his employer
from the second floor window
of the brick and stone mansion
He works with a purpose
for six twenty-five each hour
living with eight others
in a ramshackle trailer
so he can send an amazing
one hundred dollars per month,
to his family in Guatemala
so they can buy rice and beans
and will not starve
and perhaps Rosita can buy
for the children
some clothes this year
perhaps even shoes
so their feet don’t get bloody
working in the cane fields
He works even harder
and glances at the sun
growing low to the horizon
Soon to the second job
cleaning garbage trucks for the city
standing shin deep in the muck
for eight more hours
scrubbing and shoveling
but he doesn’t mind
This year perhaps he can buy a new dress
for Rosita
his beloved
and he smiles broader at the thought

But the man sipping Scotch
no such happiness has he
for life has turned dark
he shot eighty today

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Valley of Waters

Copyright 2008
Barry Yelton

In the cool of the evening, by the surging stream
the night wind sings to the canvas of stars
and time slows to an ebony crawl
in the valley where life abounds like raindrops.

I listen to the sounds that come dancing around me like fairies
the flittering bat, the talking water, the mysterious rustle of leaves .
They all tell some tail I don’t quite understand
but know it has been told for an age and more.

And I shiver in delight as the cooling wind ruffles my hair
and caresses me like passion.
The light from the stars dresses the night in elegance
and the animal sounds in the forest seem far away.

I gaze at the canopy of light and darkness and wonder
could this all be by chance?
Or in the wisdom of the great I AM it began with a roar
a burst of cosmic stardust and riotous sound and searing light .

Then settled into this dreamy night on this whispering shore
while a small mortal bound for the earth
marvels at it all and dreams of meeting
the One who brought it all to pass.