after the answer comes

We don’t need to talk about houses on the hill—his words, difficult to hear over the sudden roar in the corner 1920’s bar. The Broncos had just scored a touchdown on TV, and the patrons dressed in Denver orange were clinking mugs of Tiny’s beer with each other.  And he, a John Wayne fan, and I, a poet without a windmill to interview, had stopped by just to share a legendary platter of  Tiny’s home-cut fries. 

Or why the pine cone on the window ledge, I offered in reply.

So many things don’t make sense: Snatches of conversation; watersheds without catchments; pine cones found on a second-story ledge. But what  would intrigue be if everything added up?


Intrigue: which one is it: The noun for the secret scheme designed to harm or cheat someone? Or the verb to cause to be interested or curious?

When my son was born, his German grandfather became his favorite retreat. Snuggled against Opa’s broad shoulders, he would listen to Opa’s folk lore from the Ukraine: No nickname, no wealth;  Babies born with six toes will own windmills, but  babies born with big hands grow up to be thieves. A thief worries his neighbors are waiting to rob his house.


And afterwards, after the answer comes  . . . comes, what?

He wants to tell me about John Wayne, but the Oldies radio station we are listening to in the car is playing Christmas music and Gene Autry is singing  Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  Shhh, this is a good song! We drive from one alley to the next looking for the next great photo-op, singing Rudolph lyrics before returning to our disjointed stories.

In a valley of green plumbs and Corriente cattle–this is where he likes to think the Duke once lived. But by the time this greatest Duke fan moved to southern California, all the windmills were gone. And the cattle with their horns.

What is left? I ask.

The car bounces across the frozen, snowy ruts in the alley behind the butcher’s store, and he pauses to frame his reply: Do you know—there is even a Dale Evans Boulevard and Gene Autry Parkway down there? Right in the Anaheim suburbs, Disney to your left and the Angels ball field to your right. And the funny thing is—all the time you listen to them sing and watch them in their movies, you never think of them living in a house.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

16 responses to “after the answer comes

  1. K

    Your last line, in particular, is absolutely stunning (and so very true, might I add) ~

    • redmitten

      k- the line comes off so common, but then when we consider how many times we never think of others living in a house…well, i agree the line is stunning (and the line isn’t mine…)

  2. That was so true for me…I never thought of them living in a house.

  3. So many chords struck for me in this beautiful piece … and I appreciate the no intrigue advice.

  4. Really enjoying your Peppermint Bottle, reading it here in single parts. So much in every page. And now in addition, this post – loved the window tree reflection and the pine. and the question, without answer.

    PS: i keep coming across Montana in the most unexepcted places, like here:

    • redmitten

      doro- that you ordered it and are enjoying it means a LOT to me. thank you! i followed your link to the montana moment. isn’t life grand with its unexpected links? i also really liked the window tree reflection. the shot was way over my head so i had a much taller friend take it, standing on a cinder block. not until the photo “was developed” (on my cell phone) did i see the reflection in that shot.

  5. Karla Linn Merrifield

    So evocative! Brava again, Sherry.

  6. Rose Hunter

    The verb! (intrigue.) And yes, that it doesn’t fully add up.
    And now I am fully with the John Wayne…. 🙂

    • redmitten

      yeah! up with the john wayne 🙂 a man near here makes post cards out of sheets of steel. impossible to mail, but he cuts out verbs in the steel. written in his handwriting. every post card has a different verb. i chose “find” for me…and you would be?

  7. Rose Hunter

    I clicked on Doro link and went all the way around the world and back…. 🙂
    The Peppermint Bottle is super! 🙂

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