Boiled Dinners

Grandpa told stories of Custer, Kit Carson, and the notorious outlaw, Tom Horn, who was hung in Cheyenne in 1903. Grandpa twisted his neck unnaturally, bulged his eyes, and dangled his tongue off the side of his mouth. “It took him 17 minutes to die.”

Poem by Charlie Brice
Art by Shad Clark

Boiled Dinners

They could take half-a-day to prepare.

Mother would cut up turnips, carrots,

onions, grab a slab of salt port and most

of a roast beef, toss it into the big green

pot, fill it with water, turn on the burner,

then go do something else.

The house smelled like a place where 

I belonged. Grandpa would arrive

from Omaha, after riding the rails on his 

White Pass (he was a fifty-year man

on the Union Pacific). He’d open a paper bag

that contained tomatoes, green beans, 

and hot peppers from his garden.

Mom put plastic dinner plates on top of the boiling

pot to warm them and then dealt them

onto our table. My job was to frame them 

with silverware and napkins. You could

cut the beef with a fork and the vegetables

would melt in your mouth. Salt and 

pepper were used to excess until those of us with

daring palates slathered a chunk of beef with horseradish. 

The war on our tongues resembled the battle

between the Archangel Gabriel and Satan for Paradise. 

Between mouthfuls, the stories began:

Mother told of Mr. McGrath who lived next door

when she was a child, and who, liquored-up,

shot his rifle into the air every New Year’s Eve.

When mom was ten, he managed to shoot himself

in the foot. Mr. O’Neil, another neighbor,

brother to Monsignor O’Neil at their church,

would go on a tear at the local watering

hole, whereupon Mrs. O’Neil locked him out

of their house. “Locked out of me own 

home,” my mother used a brogue to imitate him.

Grandpa told stories of Custer, Kit Carson, and

the notorious outlaw, Tom Horn, who was 

hung in Cheyenne in 1903. Grandpa twisted his neck

unnaturally, bulged his eyes, and dangled 

his tongue off the side of his mouth. “It took him 

17 minutes to die,” he said. Mother cringed while 

my dad laughed, swigged his Budweiser, and flicked ash 

off his Kent cigarette with its Micronite filter.

I’d eat my meat, horseradish, and turnips.

I’d listen.

This was peace.

This was a place 

where I belonged.

About the Author

green leaf plant on brown wooden stump

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His sixth full-length poetry collection is Pinnacles of Hope (Impspired Books, 2022). His poetry has been nominated three times for both the Best of Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Atlanta Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Ibbetson Street, The Paterson Literary Review, Impspired Magazine, Salamander Ink Magazine, and elsewhere.

About the Artist

Shad Clark is a writer, filmmaker, and multidisciplinary visual artist. His work explores the liminal spaces between being and otherness through stories and imagery delving into nature, body horror, science, and technology.

Clark’s original short films have played festivals around the world and, along with original screenplays, they have won awards and other recognition. Clark has worked as a collaborator and creative mercenary on other films, as well as in marketing the occasional comic, and a handful of games.

Lately, Clark’s been exploring and visualizing some more ambitious ideas through digital compositing and collage, using original manipulated photography and assets he’s art directing to AI. When not working in socially explosive art and fiction, Clark researches and writes about animals and environmental issues.

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