The arrival of winter also brings a craving for soup, to warm us from the inside out. This week’s poem beautifully describes making broth.

It should be noted that for a poet like Richard Foerster, himself a master craftsman, this poem can also be read as an ars poetica, or a poem that explains the art of poetry. To make a great poem, one also needs “whatever bits we find at hand,” to be “Precise, / but not precise,” “to pique the senses,” and even to add a bit of “poison” to “exact the cure” that poems (and broth) provide.

Richard Foerster is the author of seven books, including his most recent, “River Road” (Texas Review Press, 2015). He has won many awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Arts Commission. He lives in York, where he also works as a freelance editor and typesetter.


By Richard Foerster

Some days we cannot help

but stand, chilled to the marrow,

and so let the water brim

with whatever bits we find at hand,

then ease into the kettle the wrecked keel

of a chicken – how like an alchemist

anyone intent on making soup.

The onion, halved then quartered,

separates into a lifetime

of crescent moons, and the carrot’s

bright disks float like so many risings

gathered into a single day. Precise,

but not precise. It’s not so much practice

as instinct to know that six

peppercorns are enough to pique

the senses, or that a trickle

of salt, rolled from the palm, honors

the one that bore us and will swallow

us again. Somehow we learn

that the parsley must be bitter

as the earth after Eden and one smatter

of thyme is enough to soothe the soul.

We do not think twice about adding

the bay leaf with its tincture of poison.

When we ache, we’ll gladly shiver

to stir the broth, then sip, trusting

in the delicate balance of the common-

place to exact the cure.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1998 Richard Foerster. It appeared originally in “Trillium” (BOA Editions, 1998) and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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