In the latest issue:

An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett

Anglo-America Loses its Grip

Pankaj Mishra

Short Cuts: John Bolton’s Unwitting Usefulness

Mattathias Schwartz

Smells of Hell

Keith Thomas

Mrs Oliphant

Tom Crewe

Tippett’s Knack

Philip Clark

At Tate Modern: Steve McQueen

Colin Grant

Catherine Lacey

Nicole Flattery

Churchill’s Cook

Rosemary Hill

The ‘Batrachomyomachia’

Ange Mlinko

On Dorothea Lange

Joanna Biggs

Paid to Race

Jon Day

Poem: ‘Traveller’s Tales: Chapter 90’

August Kleinzahler

The Soho Alphabet

Andrew O’Hagan

Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley

Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism

Tariq Ali

The Murdrous Machiavel

Erin Maglaque

Diary: Insane after coronavirus?

Patricia Lockwood

Close
Close

Chicken soup is magic, here’s the proof.
Maybe if I’d opened the window a crack
it would never have happened. But late
in the war, I tip the lid to let the steam off

while the broth reduces to clear gold.
Here’s my stove up one end and on the table
at the other there’s the new baby, the seventh,
the one we didn’t want but he was a boy,

after six girls you don’t complain.
There’s no place for a baby like a warm kitchen,
plus he’s wrapped in my husband’s
army coat, a proper little bundle.

The Germans find our house by mistake,
drop one right through the roof.
It’s the new kind that drips and where it drips
it burns. The girls are all up the road thank God

at their auntie’s. I dash into the kitchen,
find a sight. Shouldn’t have left the stove,
is my first thought. The room’s that smoky
I didn’t see the fire was up the other end.

Put my hand straight in the flame.
There he is, snug in his basket, snug all right,
Not a squeak or whimper from him,
I don’t stop to think what that means.

I pull him out and make for the door.
Outside, I hold him away to get a look
and my whole front’s stained with grease.
I wipe his cheek, the skin smooth as ever.

Even with our house pouring smoke behind me,
a pillar of flame leaping from the roof,
I can smell what it is on him: schmaltz.
While the room filled with fire he’d been anointed,

and it saved him. No one explained it.
Even the doctor couldn’t understand.
He’s a plump man our Ruby, always has been,
and loves a bowl of chicken soup with matzoh,

I get some ready whenever he comes.
Oh mom, he says, not chicken soup again,
he’s only joking. Yes it is, I say,
you ought to know what’s good for you.

He’s an accountant, offices off Regent’s Park,
drives a BMW just like half his sisters,
the ones that didn’t throw themselves away.
Wanted to be a fireman but wasn’t tall enough.

Changed his name though. Cohen to Owen.
Says it helps in today’s Britain. I’m running out
of breath, all this talking, what I’m saying is,
I had a miracle in my life, never underestimate
a good bowl of soup.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences