“19th and Alameda/Traveling Back” by Elisa Peterson

On the paved road                                                                      

with the yellow line

I fly out and up

from my electric car

descending, through exhaust and honking horns.

I’ve traveled here before

Many times.

I am, again, the Native Princess

the cowgirl flying her pretend pony through dust

beneath the concrete.

I kneel in the gentle dirt where I was nurse,

pat, pat, patting the legs of wounded soldier boys,

fix, fix, fix I said as I made them whole,

as I healed them

as I loved them

That stretch of road

childhood, printed there in the earth

my blossoming womanhood, too

where nighttime held us, me and my lovely boy,

till the cruiser came and shined its light on my bare breasts

cruel trick of light trading beauty for shame.

That stretch of road,

once dust, now paved,

where mother spied my feckless mate

brightly bending toward the blond 

came telling me,

came giving me

sharp keys to liberation,

escape from dead illusions,

consent to fly away

On that old dirt road, I once flew free.

Now, in wheels on pavement, at 35 miles per hour

We commune

Preparing for the final act on 19th and Alameda Street.

The Native maiden…the nurse, fix, fix, fixing,

the wild-haired cowgirl flying the painted pony,

the restless wife poised for flight,

now I, the aged artist, not yet done

I pick the brush—the Scotch broom

 sweep, sweep, sweep my den

and wait for the soldiers,

and the cowboys,

and the beautiful boy.

Elisa Peterson is a maker, designer, artist and story teller. Lately, she’s been writing and illustrating small personal memoir essays that explore what she calls “unreported damages” and “retroactive repairs.” In all her work, whether visual or in print, she is fascinated with story—the hidden, unknown, unconscious store—the ironic, humorous, serendipitous story that drives and colors our lives. She is a native Tacoman.