Originally published in Vagabond Lit


Mama told me it’s important to cast a spell
around nightfall on the first day
of the New Year.

Some years I forget & maybe those
weren’t some of my best, 
but as the onions caramelize in
the bottom of my oldest pot, 
I whisper some of the other secrets
Mama told me about new years
into the soup, & stir.

Simmering inside with the carrots &
the kale, I’ve measured out just enough
of our old magic to cure anything
that’ll come our way, be it fever
or foe. Night falls as I lower the heat, 
& I leave the pot to itself
for a while.

I call her while I wipe down the counter, 
& ask her what’s on her stove
1700 miles away. She tells me
this year, he caught a nice fish for them, 
& that she was stuffing it with lemons,
garlic, & a little strength for them
to face another South Dakota winter.

She tells me my soup sounds hearty
before I even ask what she thinks, 
& that the flu will be going around soon. 
She tells me this year is blowing in
from a different mountain than last, 
& she’s not afraid.

We hang up so I can get down the bowls, & try to picture a fish
in my oven, but can’t. I know she’d tell me that that’s okay. She never over salts
her first stew of the year, & one day
I won’t either. This year, though, I hope
that it means we’ll have all that we need,
even when we don’t.