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Wayne Mennecke


His cracked right hand cinches gray
streaks of grease on long apron strings.

The other self-flagellates his left
shoulder with a mostly damp dish towel.

Years since he’s seen Alaska
the steakhouse cook opens up

about home- longing for fresh halibut,
the sight of grizzlies, Denali.

But the North Dakota grill is steady work.  He says
most travelers just pass through these picketwire
plains- sweepstakes players devour his firehouse ribs
on break from fracking shale.  He broils ribeye steaks

for roughnecks, roasts duck for ranchers and hunters,
steams mussels and sautés escargot in garlic

butter sauce for desolate diggers of deadbolt dinosaur bones.
He stabs at his own buried treasures-

a deep blood kettle of imperfect recipes
and off-script meals,

but this evening the cook pokes a grin
through the kitchen’s double-hinged doors

asks diners how everything is,
reassures everyone

how so damn thrilled to death he is
with being alive.


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