426: Lesson: Chicken Soup

426: Lesson: Chicken Soup

426: Lesson: Chicken Soup

This week, we’re featuring poems about food and all the many ways it sustains us. Because food is community and memory. It’s struggle, joy, and so much more.


Lesson: Chicken Soup
by Christine Kitano

My grandmother pours salt
	into my right palm, places thin slivers
		of garlic in my left. She explains

something about blood, how to salt
	the raw bird to drain its fluids,
		but my mind already wanders:

I watch the chicken shrivel but compose
	instead the grandfather I’ve only met
		in story: daybreak, he’s just finished

mopping up in the buildings
	that sculpt this city’s skyline, but it’s
		someone else’s view of Los Angeles.

The immigrant sees, not the postcard-perfect lights,
	but the scuffed tiles, dust-lined desks, the darkening
		throats of toilet after toilet.

Home, he tiptoes upstairs not to wake
	his daughters, holding his shoes
		like a thief. He’s fired

for stealing a roll of toilet paper, a can of soda
	for my mother. Children are nothing
		but trouble, my grandmother says,

shaking a wooden spoon. My mother claims
	the story otherwise: it was she 
		who accompanied father to work, she

who stole a box of stale donuts, she
	who lost the family’s first job. Grandmother
		shrugs and repeats the same

conclusion. Never have children, she says, 
	though her expression is hidden 
		by the steam now rising from the pot.

It’s a simple recipe: boil until the meat
	falls from the bones, easy, like a girl
		shedding a summer dress.

Last night, I cooked for friends.
	After dinner, my friend handed me 
		his one-month son, who only

blinked when I nudged my thumb
	into his fist. Earlier, washing the pale
		bird, I struggled to keep the body

from slipping through my hands: I held
           its small-fleshed form under cold water,
		      pulled the giblets out the round hollow

between its ribs and was surprised
	to be surprised when it didn’t
		make a sound. 

"Lesson: Chicken Soup" by Christine Kitano, from SKY COUNTRY by Christine Kitano, copyright © 2017 Christine Kitano. Used by permission of BOA Editions.