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.