Iris Keltz
Author, Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie: Tribal Tales from the Heart of a Cultural Revolution.

Story #4: Make Soup

Karen came to visit after years of estrangement
we spoke of life and death
(she has liver cancer, three months to live, maybe six)

“I accept this fate and will try to walk with grace” she said calmly
until thoughts of two adult sons float into her heart

they will rage against her passing
she knows this

wasn’t it yesterday we rolled grape leaves
and ground chick peas for humus?

impossible that decades have gone by
I share photos of my stake in the future––

a grandson and two baby grand daughters
the rift that separated us never happened
swarthy complexion, dark eyes and black hair reveal
Lebanese roots discovered as a Pittsburgh teenager

I dream of once again preparing a Middle-East feast
with her, for the holidays

a time of miracles
we sat in the sun drinking a pot of tea

I never saw her again.
I will never see her again.

what to do?

make a pot of soup
get a fast boil going before dropping in
sweet marrow bones, salt and a bay leaf

a friend calls to say
you can’t visit Feeny today, or ever
her breathing is difficult

her passing is soon
tell her I love her and will remember her

in new buffalo courtyard
where we buttered crackers

two summer solstices ago
she borrowed my camping knife to slather a spread

(I’m sure it was healthy) on crackers (without gluten)
which she placed in someone’s wide brimmed straw hat

as if an elegant serving dish
she passed around the hors d’oerves

we ate and told stories between tokes
that smelled like earth
we are elders of the tribe she called
all one

poof, one day, Feeny’s gone

continue simmering
skim off fat
slice an onion, always need an onion

and carrots covered with mud from the garden
and celery, must be organic

they soak up so much water

it’s not possible Alfred has passed
that never again will his raucus reassuring laugh
echo across the mesas and mountain valley

that has been his home since he took off his clothes
in Morningstar commune to become

the Patriarch of the lost tribe
not the chief, just the elder, a hearth, a flash point to gather by

he gave me boxes of his last words and his incomplete PHD
legendary birthday parties off the grid on the west mesa

will be talked about for decades
exaggeration impossible

a man in a kilt plays bagpipes
against sun pulling taut gold-lined clouds

while santa alfred clause leans against a pick-up truck
handing out magic budda on crackers
soon everyone feels fine, just fine
we know we’ll be dancing forever

even while watching ominous clouds
in the east coming ever closer.

the broth is thickening
I will add lentils and fresh dill
from friends gardens

I discover a sweet ear of corn hiding in a corner of the fridge
and a bell pepper and green beans

it’s not possible
one day the tribes electronic grim reaper informs
Carl is dead: mud man, clown, playmate, lover, alcoholic, storyteller

months ago he asked me to read words he wrote for
Alfred’s life celebration

calling him Odysseus and other difficult to pronounce names
who is Telemachus?

Carl loved the me inside of me
on cold winter nights

he tenderly pressed hot wash clothes
heated on the wood cook stove

on my face while baking
an apple pie from last summer’s harvest
one summer day he appeared in our crumbling adobe railroad flat

sliding down the rocky driveway on the hello forever bus
that must have also taken him away

peel fat cloves of garlic
chop and simmer in olive oil
saute with squash

drop into the broth
allow to simmer

ah, more salt
stir, patience, let simmer

our community midwife died the week before Feeny
smiling Elizabeth bathed in yellow light and
blooming sunflowers

birthed new life for decade
now she’s gone

the faces of my beloved grandchildren
posted on the fridge

remind me that new shoots emerge as old ones die
the long walk between my writing tablet and stove

where soup blissfully simmers
scents the home of my heart

encourages the illusion of an unchanging universe
but friends transit to the other side

slam my pretensions
a mysterious call

on the land line
from an angel lady named Rose

who asks me to record her personal history
before she too fades.

where is everyone going?
she promised me an angel in exchange.

That’s fair, I surmised
counting the hours.

ah, the soup is ready
eat! imbibe! enjoy!

PS Since writing of this, we have lost Peter Rabbit, tribal elder, trickster and poet par excellent. Chuck Perez––my New Buffalo brother who wandered unrecognized and homeless in the streets of Albuquerque. Amanda Bailey––no doubt riding her horses in the Elysian fields. Posie Franzetti––smiling while hammering away to forge a more beautiful world. Mickey Long––ah, the list grows longer. Louisa Galenta––from Daddy Dave’s love nest to a spinner of yarn. Tish Demmin––she delivered my first child. Asa Hearts––contemplating the world with brother Alfred . John Kimmey––silver tongued devil intent on saving the world.