This Is West – Wildflower Ranch

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Dried rhubarb hangs from a small golden chain over a kitchen sink where his grandmother used to bathe him. “She thinks it keeps spirits away.” He says as he dips his grease-stained mechanic hands into soapy unfiltered water. He’s lived in this brown place all of his life. His grandfather helped lay the brick that keeps him enclosed–a long tradition of men that have worked fields surrounding the outskirts of a small wagon wheel town. It’s an old kitchen. There isn’t a dishwasher and the stove only ignites with a match. He flips tortillas over the metal swirl, he doesn’t use anything but his hands. Steady, large hands that make him look and feel much older than he is. They don’t match the rest of him. Tall and lanky, with unsure legs that move him back and forth from folding laundry and stirring a pot of beans. They move quickly but without purpose.

I sit with him and fold dish towels. Listening to him speak about Cisneros and Cardenas. His sandpaper eyes meet mine and he blushes underneath a mouthful of revolution. He folds a tortilla in half and scoops a heap of beans onto a chipped red plate. “The only thing she’ll eat now.”

I met him in a field of dying wildflowers. Dirt-covered stalks surrounded his feet and kept him planted to this place. He doesn’t move them to bend his back slightly and kiss me underneath a scorching wide sky. It burns everything beneath it.

“There used to be a river there.” He points to a far-off section of the land that his grandmother’s kitchen still belongs to. I didn’t believe him. But he smiled into the sun anyway. He walks back to the barn garage next to the empty wooden stable and dehydrated metal troughs, avoiding any place where a dried flower rests on the cracked dirt, as if he thinks that someday they’ll all grow back.

And on days like today, for his sake, I hope they do.

(Fiction and Photography by Jade Smith)

Published by

El Portal

Eastern New Mexico University’s literary magazine, El Portal, offers a venue for the work of writers, artists and photographers. ENMU students, national, and international writers are welcome to submit their original, previously unpublished short stories, plays, poetry and photography. No entry fees are charged. Cash prizes are awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category (only ENMU students qualify). El Portal is published each semester at Eastern thanks to Dr. Jack Williamson, a world-renowned science fiction writer and professor emeritus at ENMU who underwrote the publication. El Portal has been published since 1939.