Patti See

Soup's On

A Line

Each supper time my father yells Soup's on
from the porch railing, comb over growing
in the night breeze, the rolled newspaper passed
to his half mooned arm pit. Nothing's worth
reading since Tricky Dick, but he'll laugh alone
at the comics. The neighborhood loved

his call. Other kids scrambled to hand over
toys and even parents thought we only ate soup.
Hungry, we'd say, darting home, hiding that he only
called once. He was the man of our world, grown
up and stern, who didn't know what play was worth
or couldn't afford to. Each of us passed

him on the porch with a nod as his eyes passed
over the sea of seven children he loved.
A man for whom words were worthless
found his way of saying I'm here. Soup's on.
We didn't know what could make a grown
man hate his life, believing that only

kids lost the power to please. He sat as if alone,
his spoon in one hand, back and forth, passing
bowl to lips, his free hand scribbling with a grown
up finger on the table top. If it was a meal he loved
--pig's feet with sauerkraut, tongue soup
with egg dumplings--it was a dish worthy

of Wonder what the poor people are eating, worth
a table laugh each time, the way that only
kids have to laugh at a father. He ate his soup
as he did everything, looking at the door past
us, his rhythmic dull at the machine motion, loving,
it seemed, only what he saw there, as we grew

up telling each other stories. Now we use grown
up words, though I can't tell him what's worthwhile
we often stumble upon, how I know silence is love
and words can't make it better, how lonely
fathers who yelled from porches too often slip past
us, how I still want to call back to him, I'm on

my way, how I've grown to know what to leave
alone and know what's worth passing on,
how I hold my son and say Soup's on.

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The 2River View, 3_4 (Summer 1999)