In my grandmother’s house there was always chicken soup
And talk of the old country—mud and boards,
The snow falling down the necks of lovers.
Now and then, out of her savings
She sent them a dowry. Imagine
The rice-powdered faces!
And the smell of the bride, like chicken soup.
But the Germans killed them.
I know it’s in bad taste to say it,
But it’s true. The Germans killed them all.
In the ruins of Berchtesgaden
A child with yellow hair
Ran out of a doorway.
A German girl-child—
Cuckoo, all skin and bones—
Not even enough to make chicken soup.
She sat by the stream and smiled.
Then as we splashed in the sun
She laughed at us.
We had killed her mechanical brothers,
So we forgave her.
The sun is shining.
The shadows of the lovers have disappeared.
They are all eyes; they have some demand on me—
They want me to be more serious than I want to be.
They want me to stick in their mudhole
Where no one is elegant.
They want me to wear old clothes,
They want me to be poor, to sleep in a room with many others—
Not to walk in the painted sunshine
To a summer house,
But to live in the tragic world forever.
Louis Simpson, “A Story About Chicken Soup” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems, 1940-2001. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.
Source: The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001
(BOA Editions Ltd., 2003)