Soup

10 11 2008

One night our block leader set a competition:

two bowls of soup to the best teller of a tale.

That whole evening the hut filled with words –

tales from the old countries

of wolves and children

potions and love-sick herders

stupid woodsmen and crafty villagers.

Apple-blossom snowed from blue skies,

orphans discovered themselves royal.

Tales of greed and heroes and cunning survival,

soldiers of the empires, the Church, the Reich.

 

And when they turned to me

I could not speak,

sunk in the horror of that place,

my throat a corridor of bones, my eyes

and nostrils clogged with self pity.

“Speak,” they said, “everyone has a story to tell.”

And so I closed my eyes and said:

I have no hunger for your bowls of soup, you see

I have just risen from the Shabbat meal –

my father has filled our glasses with wine,

bread has been broke, the maid has served fish.

Grandfather has sung, tears in his eyes, the old songs.

My mother holds her glass by the stem, lifts

it to her mouth, the red glow reflecting on her throat.

I go to her side and she kisses me for bed.

My grandfather’s kiss is rough and soft like an apricot.

The sheets on my bed are crisp and flat

like the leaves of a book…

 

I carried my prizes back to my bunk: one bowl

I hid, the other I stirred

and smelt a long time, so long

that it filled the cauldron of my head,

drowning a family of memories.

           

– Tony Curtis (Welsh, 1946 – )

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