Cold Chicken on the Oregon Trail

Isobel Bess

The clerk frowns at my breakfast
sandwich: a sausage biscuit,
hot like you’ll have to get
a cold one. I get a cold one,
slip the hot one in my purse while
she inspects my Oregon Trail
card. Games about manifest
destiny never taught me that

the Wilammette Valley Treaty Commission

lacked even the stolen authority
of their own Congress to drive
Kalapuya people from their homes,
that by 1855 the damage was done,
that the treaty of Dayton was a post-hoc
justification of a genocidal campaign
that led to the founding of Corvallis
College, later Corvallis State
Agricultural College, later

Oregon State University, a monument

to this campaign that never ended,
that this campaign never ended.
The case worker who denies
my food stamp renewal application
calls me an abawd, doesn’t explain
what this means but the bottom line
is I don’t make enough money,
lets me keep the card in case I ever
make enough money, has me escorted

from the Department of Human Services.

I still buy cold chicken at the store and
it still reminds me of home. I still
put hot sauce on cold chicken
and I still think it tastes better this way.
I steal hot sauce and cold chicken
from the store and it reminds me
of home, it tastes better this way.