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Friends of Ché

I was a friend of Ché’s in my younger days but never hung a poster on my bedroom wall;
instead, sketches pinned askew--torn out pages from thrift shop books:
      Parrish, Monet, and one of Guernica although, at that time, I hated Picasso
& lined up like soldiers on a dresser (found in an alley by a dumpster),
      an even row of misshapen tubes, Grumbacher oils:
      alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, cadmium barium vermilion,
      mars black, ceruleun blue, titanium white and thalo green

The smell of turpentine, linseed oil and midnight painting sessions
so annoyed my room-mates that they called their mothers,
both of whom called Mama & since we were then only on writing terms,

she sent a card with a cardinal in snow on the front of it:

please be more thoughtful of those you live with

I sent back a bullet: since I was 20, you have not given one penny for my tution, books, room or board;
but you gave my brother a free ride & the offer to my sister was rejected so
she could run away to Colorado with her boyfriend & be free.

I work 2 jobs. The first begins at 6:45. A 2 mile walk so I can slam down
hash browns onto metal trays & start classes at eight.
The second job is at J.C. Penney―6:30 p.m. ‘til 9:00
Right now, they play Christmas music: Perry Como & Bing Crosby
songs all night long. Then I walk home & start to study.

It’s a small Purina factory town with long, cold nights.
At 23, triple majoring in Medieval Lit’, Art & Education, I do love college
but my time is spent seriously, reading 5 or 6 thick books a week
& I must turn in 6 paintings by the end of this semester.

My room-mates are focused on new clothes & parties & dates.

So I’ll move across town to an old 6 bedroom Victorian which is falling apart.
It’s always filled with girls who weave goat wool into ponchos & wall hangings;
guys with braided beards who play Cat Stevens songs on beat up guitars &
we all pitch in to buy saffron rice & cook it with beans & fight
over who does the dishes that night.

Lucy is a painter like me but her parents have money so she’ll study
at the Sorbonne next year; another girl is doing her Master’s in art therapy
―she works with kids in the mental hospital over in the next county

& there’s a guy with his second-hand mattress on the floor.
He’s got a gold & blue Indian print cloth hanging up instead of a door.
There’s a poster of Ché tacked up on battered stuccoed wall.
It’s 1973―he wants me to live with him for free

So, mother, send me cards about politics & art & music
or nothing, nothing, nothing at all.

                       (Much respect to Archibald MacLeish and Joni Mitchell)

Dixie J'Elder



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