Family Tradition

Joan's mother
comes for Thanksgiving,
brings food preparation
to a halt.
Insists that somebody
goes to the store
to buy rutabagas.
One store after another
doesn't carry rutabagas,
never heard of rutabagas,
checkers go "aaarrghhh."
someone finds
a limp scarred waxed
way-over-date rutabaga
and brings it home.
At the dinner table
friends and relatives
gather. The mother points
a spoon at Joan, says,
"Here's the rutabaga
you always ask for."
Joan replies a puzzled,
"Huh? I do?"

Settling for Second Best

Trounced in a local election,
newly widowed at 65,
she wraps her white braids
in a coronet around her head.

Takes her sturdy farm wife body,
basic farm wife skills,
to The Peace Corps.

She teaches women in scattered huts,
on dirt floors, in ten-storey buildings
the hello-goodbyes of English
with some tips on hygiene
she can't keep to herself.

For years we read of her adventures--
complete with photos as proof--
on page 2 of our daily paper every month.

She wanders the souks of Central Asia,
prowls the cities of Seoul and Delhi,
lingers in Kyoto temple gardens,
sips tea with her hosts on the steppes
of Kazakhstan. Swallows, with a smile,
food she never imagined.

She doesn't spend much time mourning
her lost election, the lost farm.

Travelers --for Mark

I hear you speak about taking care
of your Travelers and picture gypsies:
gold hoop earrings glinting
in moonlight, patterned kerchiefs
tying back strong black curls,
dangerous smiles gleaming
below dark wary eyes, knives
tucked behind leather belts.

I hear the jingle of harness,
creak of wood caravans, sly
laughter of women, soft neigh
of a horse. Watch you lift a lantern,
guide them into a meadow
far from town. You've made sure
a fire blazes in welcome, water boils
for tea, stew bubbles with meat,
herbs and turnips.

Instead, your Travelers arrive by car
and plane, contracts zipped into briefcases,
ready for three months work. They wear
jeans or black microfiber suits, hair
moussed and groomed or lank and stringy.
They carry scrubs in blue, pink, green
cotton/poly packed in wheeled
duffel bags, loop laptops on long straps
over their shoulders.

You help them find rooms, settle,
show them the hospital, where to get
hamburgers and fries that don't taste rancid.
Introduce them to staff, launch them
on the job. You wait for phone calls
and questions, help your temp nurses
find their way.

© Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Bio: Former psychology researcher, writer, editor, lecturer Patricia Wellingham-Jones has recently been published in Edgz, Ibbetson Street Press, HazMat Review. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her newest books are Belt of Transit (PWJ Publishing) and Hormone Stew (Snark Publishing); her website is .