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.