Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Thinking Soup

Thinking Soup

Alberto Ríos

I wanted to cook something, she said to me,
Taking out the neatly wrapped spices and the vegetables

To make some cocido soup, one thing touched at a time,
Some big ears of corn snapped in two, some yellow squash,

Some saved meat broth, some cabbage, some cut potatoes.
That's what's wrong with this neighborhood, she said,

Even the whole city—this place has lost its recipes.
Oh, you can find food, and people pretending to make it,

Pretending to mix things together by hand, pretending
That mix of vague, off-white powders makes the food you eat.

And you can't go and ask them at the place—you can't—
It's not as if they were your mother or your grandmother. No.

They won't tell you how to make what they put into packages.
They won't let you stand there and practice with them.

It's like that. Really, I don't think they know how.
I don't even think they know where the things they use-

The flour or the chicken—where any of it comes from,
Those people who work there. Those children.

That's part of it, too—they're all so young. I've heard that
The people you see don't even make these foods they sell.

The foods come from somewhere else, and what's in those packages,
It's a big mystery. As if chickens are a big mystery.

It's not a mystery. You just take a chicken by the throat,
Hold it firmly, and swing it around your head hard.

It's not a mystery except that maybe you turn your head away
So that even you don't look at what you're doing,

Knowing what you would see. Cooking soup,
That good soup of mine that you like, it's not as easy as it looks.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 81, No. 3 (Fall 2007), pp. 86-87


Alberto Ríos’s latest collection of poems is The Dangerous Shirt, preceded by The Theater of Night, winner of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. A finalist for the National Book Award and recipient of the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, Ríos has taught at Arizona State University for more than 30 years.

Alberto Ríos

Tom Story