April 23, 2014
Tomato Soup


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

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.

Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!

Posted In: Poetry

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