Stirring More Than Chicken Noodle Soup

Julie Gardner, an Amherst Writers & Artists affiliate, leads WritersGathering retreats in Bainbridge Island, WA. When she’s not making her weekly pot of soup or visiting her grandsons and their families in Brazil or Norway, she takes long walks, plays pickleball, enjoys musical and other performances, reads and writes. After the loss of her husband from cholangiocarcinoma in 2018, she has become a devoted student of poetry. She finds comfort in reading poetry and in writing about loss/grief which she sees as another form of love.

The thing about the mix of
illness and grief is:
You have to make your own chicken noodle soup.
Not that your husband ever made soup.
And you know—are trying to learn,
you can ask a friend or neighbor.
But making soup has its own
way of being there for you.
Watery eyes from onions,
It must be the onions.
Please allow the dropping of
more than onions into the pot.
You may have been
high school sweethearts
married nearly forty years
loved three children into being.
Maybe you were more than married.
After years of loving,
at times, heated intercourse,
what was created,
turns you inside out,
overturns the words
until death do us part.

Pour in the liquids.
Allow yourself this:
The mix of illness and grief
onions and tears.
With each dice, drop in the pot,
One holds dear
the puppy dog look of concern on his face,
the pet names he had for you,
(ones only he used
like Jules and Rae),
the way he placed
a soft kiss on your forehead,
whispering, “Jules, are you ok?”
Another dice, drop in the pot,
The way he rose before you,
every morning
to make and serve you
more than coffee.
Add the carrots, celery, chicken, noodles,
and there’s the spices,
the spices.
Stir as long as it takes for you to:
See the two of you hoeing the chickweed,
harvesting the carrots;
Hear the private loving ribs you gave each other,
the steamy ones too;
Savor his hairy chest dabbed with Brut,
your lovemaking fluids;
Reach for the warmth of his hand, his hand.
Spoon in yours.
Dice, drop in the pot.
Stir until all becomes one.
Boil but do not over boil.
Next, you will ladle
your soup
into a new vessel.
Sip your abundant cup of
chicken noodle soup.
Lift the spoon to your lips.
the peppers of loss
the broth of love and gratitude
for all you shared
are sharing.

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