Usually on snowy days
with grilled cheese wedged against bowls,
Mom always pushing the dairy.
I rejected her milk when I learned
for myself how to cut the can, let the tiny blade
pierce the seam until a jagged circle
dropped, edged with thickened
Campbell’s, only Campbell’s.
Sweet and acidic, that soup
played on my favorite tastes, not Mom’s
milk meant to enrich my young bones. I craved
my own bite. I learned to twist and listen
for clicks that signaled the gas
flame. I bent for the copper-
bottomed pot I always scoured,
to smooth pale red globs
as the water, just water, one can, heated.
Later, I leapt to frying—the actual
act, never really grilled—
Wonder bread, Fleischman’s, and Kraft
singles, what the household held,
but I found my own ways
to make the meld.
In the infusion room, I expected comfort
in Campbell’s, wheeled in on trays and plastic
cloches. I had never looked a free meal
in the face of not being free. Now,
a year’s gone by. I still recoil,
remembering the chill, that soup,
the queasy steam. I ate to calm
the chemo laying waste to my gut.
This old comfort even now recalls only sickness.
Today, this snowy day, a storm outside
burdens the power lines, threatens to cut
off all heat and light. As the fire
hydrant out front disappears
under a drift I call back
Campbell’s both ways, Mom’s
and my own. I reclaim the calm
of hot red hearts, the first meals
after tummy troubles, the slow cold
of hope, that steal me back
to when I learned to taste and ache
and feed myself
on my own.
-Mary Ann Cain (Allen County)
Mary Ann Cain has published Down from Moonshine, a novel (13th Moon Press 2009) and two scholarly books on writing, as well as in literary journals such as The Denver Quarterly, The North American Review, The Bitter Oleander, among others. She lives in Fort Wayne and is Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne where she teaches creative writing, rhetoric, and Women’s Studies.
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