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Poetry #369
(published February 14, 2008)
Chile in Five Course
by Christopher David Lake
(for Sherman Alexie)

Here in New Mexico,
chile is not to be confused with chili,
There's some state law somewhere that
says so.
chile with an "e" comes mostly from
south of here where a river flows
through a rare rift valley rimmed by
mountains that look almost black in the
harsh sunlight against the blue
of the sky and the water.

To make the distinction clearer:

The other kind comes mostly from that
other state to the immediate right of
us on the map. Especially good for cold
evenings when you think Man, should the
bayou be this cold? Good also for when
you need something convenient to put in
your mouth so it won't respond to jokes
about dragging black men behind pickup
trucks in the pines in the pines where
the sun couldn't reach the soft needle-
covered floor even if
it wanted to.


Scene: Garduno's of Mexico, Montgomery
Boulevard, Albuquerque.

Me: The red's good. Nice and hot.
She: How could he have done that to me?
Me: Wait. Maybe it's the green...
She: I mean, he really sucks - even for
an ex...
Me: Uh huh.
She: Why is he calling me now?
Me: What?
She: Could we talk about something
other than chile?


"This is for the questions that don't
have any answers,"
said Kid Rock a long time ago
before launching into a song
about topless dancers and midnight
whoever they are.
I personally haven't known too many
topless dancers,
or at least had many conversations
with them that didn't involve exchanges
of cash.
What does all this have to do
with chile?
Absolutely nothing.

Therein lies the connection.


When questioned about her memories of
my wife,
who grew up in the South Valley at a
when indoor plumbing
was something to feel proud about,
had this to say:

"It's not a memory - it was food."


Lost somewhere in the Bootheel,
the border-crosser realizes he is so
hungry he has stopped thinking about
food and started thinking instead about
places that would be good to lie down
for a little while,
maybe behind a large enough rock or
maybe the shadow of that greasewood
could hold him in dreams of his hija in
her quinceanera dress just last spring
so radiant so new to this vida so
bright like the pods of chile verde his
woman might place on the counter and
slice into on a fall afternoon when the
air is so still and perfect he finds he
is afraid to move to breathe for fear
of losing the moment
and everything

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