Executive Chef

Gilligan’s Island and The Love Boat.
French fries and brown gravy from the Hilton Inn in Santa Fe.
Maraschino cherries and a tiny girl in a dark bar.
Waiting for Grandma to come out from the back, wearing an executive Chef’s uniform- the first female to do so at a Hilton Executive Inn in New Mexico.

Grandma’s bra always came off in the car.
Ten seconds after she sat down, Grandma would wiggle and pull until somehow, the bra would be coerced from a sleeve and deposited, lifeless, on the passenger seat beside her.
While Grandma drove home, she trilled along to her favorite spanish songs.

Watching the dusty desert terrain fly by in a blur, the girl always wished she knew what everyone seemed to be so excited about in those songs.
She didn’t understand the words but the drama played like a silent movie in her thoughts.
She imagined dashingly handsome heroes, tragically beautiful damsels and menacing villians.

Sweet Pea, the chihuahau sitting next to the little girl in the back seat, did no such imagining.
He just sat there looking out the window, smelling like old dog and throwing out a haphazard bark now and then.

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Incorporated

Smudges of blood against yellow linoleum

on concrete

on wood

Smudges of blood on paper

and dirt

smashed into metal shed walls

slammed into dashboards

Blood smudged knuckles

and faces

and bodies

Blood in the water

soaking the fields

streaking the rocks

Blood smudges on the alter

in the pews and the aisles

Blood smudged on the knees bent in fervor

Blood to wash the lost souls clean

Blood soaked bones

buried beneath secrets and lies

Bloody remainders for scavenging, blood sucking flies.

Blood money to soften the sounds of the cries

Bloody Big Brother-

Did coins flow through the veins of your mother?

Running to love in a Datsun 210

When I met my husband, I was freshly 19 and he was 21. He had come home on leave from where he was stationed in NC as a soldier with the 82nd Airborne, 3/4 ADA. He was supposed to be home visiting family and friends and I absolutely stole every extra second he had. (Sorry, Della!) When he went back to NC, the amount of time I spent thinking of him was unbelievable- so was the long distance phone bill (Sorry Amber!) Luckily, I had an adventurous friend who had been planning to travel to New Mexico with me to stay with my Aunt and help with a new baby. We quickly modified our plans to stop by North Carolina. You know, on our way to New Mexico. Because 19 + hopelessly in love = really, really smart and rational. (Sorry Auntie Toni!)

We rolled through Wolf Point to say goodbye and left my dad in an utter state of desperation after he learned we had less than enough $ to actually make it across the nation. (Sorry Dad!) “Oh well! YOLO!” We yelled and drove our rickety 1980’s red Datsun 210 right outta MT and into the great unknown. (OK, we didn’t yell that). It took us two weeks to get to Fayetteville, NC and when we got there, we had just enough money left for a hotel room for one night. Marty came to our rescue. Two weeks later we had moved from temporary lodging (an empty trailer in a park where he was friends with the manager) that had almost melted us to death because it had no power or AC and it was July. And we were Montanans. In North Carolina. We now were living in our own tiny trailer that had 8 layers of dog hair and cockroaches in the walls. We had eaten no other food than bowling alley food because Marty fed us by charging it all on his commissary card. I’d managed to scrape my way into a job at a steakhouse, thanks to his friends, where I was a TERRIBLE waitress.

Everything was crazy, and everything was perfect. Two weeks after arriving in NC, Marty asked me to marry him. My first response was to tell him that he didn’t even know me. (See? I tried to warn him.) We were wed the next weekend, in a little roadside chapel that had seen countless young soldiers and brides come and go. I picked our wedding song without even knowing what song it was- I just liked the title- Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers. I wore the dress I’d worn for my high school graduation. I stood next to that handsome, sweet, kind young man at the alter in borrowed shoes that were too big for me and vowed to be his wife. I knew virtually nothing about life, but I knew one thing for sure- that I could never be thankful enough for having found him.

Poor Man’s Camper

My dad used to tell me and my brothers that patience is a virtue.  As an adult, I have come to view this saying as a both a truth and a tactic.  It’s no coincidence that he would impart this nugget of wisdom on us during times when HE needed patience to deal with our antics, I just didn’t notice that as a child.

Looking back, I know that he lived by this saying for a number of reasons.  It’s a good mantra for people who are poor or struggling.  And for most of his life, my dad has been poor or struggling or both.  Sometimes people get offended by the use of the word “poor”.  Trust me, it is not a description that my father would hesitate to use for himself.  Ever ridden in a Poor Man’s Camper? Not a recognizable term?  Probably because it is one of those things that my father invented out of desperation.

Poor Man’s Camper defined:  A refrigerator box in the back of a pickup truck, filled with kids and about to travel a few hundred miles on MT roads so that transport of the entire family would be possible in the one vehicle we owned.  Also known as a box of potential death or, to my brother, Sonny, the box of torture where he was forced to lick chicken Mcnugget sweet & sour sauce off the cardboard walls. Forced by me. Because he spilled it and I didn’t want it to get in my hair.  It was fine, he could see the gross spots with no struggle; we were child geniuses and had poked holes through the cardboard for light.

My father is a highly talented sculptor.  He can paint and draw too, but he loved sculpting.  His sculptures are breathtaking- and not in the “I can kind of relate to what the artist is doing on subconscious level” way… more in the “holy &%$&^, that is so beautiful I can’t believe you made it” way.  I truly believe that if he had more administrative skills and less children, his career would have been much different.  He never gave up with his work, even though it meant months of travelling, going to art shows all over the US and long stretches of having no money at all.  My childhood memories are riddled with waxballs, foundry tailings, paint specks and art pencils.  He believed in following his dreams, he wanted all of us to believe in our following our own dreams too.  My mom tried not to give up, she really did- but years of near isolation and being almost solely responsible for the daily tasks of raising four kids eventually took their toll.
Of course when the marriage ended, I blamed her- because I was 12 and dumb. Romance and dreams just don’t feed, clothe or diaper children and you can’t stay in love with someone who is always gone. He was running around the country as a hip, starving artist (ok, he probably would say that is not as glorious as it sounds, and I know it wasn’t). She was the “welfare mom” dragging 4 kids around Montana towns where she knew no one without a car. I can understand this now that I’m almost 40 and a little less dumb.  Mom only had to wait for about 10 years for me to come to my senses and cut her some slack.

Still, my brothers and I idolized our dad.  Remember how when taking a solemn vow as a kid, you used to say “I swear to God” because you really, really meant it?  It seemed that the consequences of having lied in an oath including God’s name were bad beyond imagination.  Well…my brothers and I used to ask each other “You swear in Dad’s Name?” to ascertain whether the truth was being told.  I know.  It’s hilarious and sad and we’re all cool with that because sad is always easier with a little bit of humor.  Those who have done some real suffering in life know that this is a truth of surviving tragedy and hardship.   The divorce between my parents was long, truth be told, it pretty much consumed my life after the age of 12. By the time I was 16, I was thoroughly convinced that my parents would hate each other forever and I would never be allowed the privilege of planning an event with my future husband and kids that wouldn’t include having to keep my parents separate.

That was true for a few years, but thankfully, patience is a virtue and grand-kids change everything. I think the reason for that is because grand-kids mean your kids are full grown and you KNOW how fast it happened.  You realize that time with them while they are little really should be a high priority and you’re willing to work through your own personal issues in order to soak up that time. By the time my parents came up for air from their custody battle, two of their kids were old enough to decide who they wanted to live with.   These days, my parents easily hang out with eachother at family functions and, actually, my brothers and I get totally creeped out if they spend any amount of time alone. No, Mom & Dad, you can’t go outside and share a smoke, we’ve had enough of your antics, thank you.

Swallowed

Looking over her shoulder,

she knows all that is chasing her

and that everything will catch her.

Swallowed by a swell of blinding swirls,

Photo Credit: Ayres Photography

she has already disappeared.

Her present is lost to the past.

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It’s Open Link Night, Week 133 over at d-Verse~ Poet’s Pub.  This is my submission.  Go check them out, lots of great poets!

Label

Tired of being told what to call myself.

Don’t say Indian, say Native American.

Don’t say Native American, say Native.

Don’t say Native, say Indigenous.

Don’t tell me what I am.

Entitled mouths come in every color.

I know what I am.

My children say mother.

My husband says lover.

My father says daughter.

My work says educated.

My friends say humble.

My skin says brown.

My face says Northern Plains Tribe.

My blood says Assiniboine, Sioux, Cree, Navajo, Apache.

My heart says that no one, not one person, can take away what made me.

Enrollment says associate member only.

I am not a label.

Ghost

Image

She has black tipped fingers.

Stained with jealousy,

they tear at her heart,

endlessly shredding

her delicate,

specialized

cardiovascular muscle strands

into bloodied ribbons of razor sharp fear

which pool around her bare feet

and move with her,

snaking behind her,

licking razor flicks

at her ankles

as she roams her dusty path.

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I am submitting this poem to Open Link Night for dVerse Poets Pub, week 95.  Once again, I encourage anyone who enjoys writing and reading poetry to check out their site.