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C.C. Hogan

The Everything Stew

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This is a narrative poem about a special meal cooked between friends in a cabin when we were all young, just out of school.

You can hear a reading of this poem at the bottom of the page. 

I remember now a moment lost
Another time so long ago,
There were ten of us, I think,
Not more, though maybe less.
We had escaped upon a bus
Away from parents, teachers, life,
Had taken refuge in a cabin rough
Guitars in hand, laughter, love.
It was a winter, cold and crisp,
We bought supplies to last three days,
Barricaded we, inside the logs
Built fires, laid bags upon the floor.
My role, if roles were to be had
Was to sort the food so we always ate,
No fixed time, no set occasion
Just as we felt, as the storm blew long.
Our money pooled, we felt so rich,
Though none but me were working yet,
So I had bags and boxes, meat and veg,
Salt and herbs, smoked and cured,
Stock cubes, wooden spoons, 
Bacon sliced, yeast and flour,
Lentils, spices, eggs and cheese,
Chocolate, whiskey, marmalade, beer.
For three days we laughed and talked,
We cooked and drank and hardly slept
And then it changed, these youngsters wild
Quietened then and paused a while.
I took myself to the stove alone
And made a stew of everything.
It grew and warmed, the smell escaping
Around the cabin, where you were sleeping.
The storm, it grew lounder, angrier
And the shutters banged awakening all.
Amid nervous laughter, you all manned the hatches
Stuffing clothes into gaps and breeches.
A fire roared, stoked up and fierce,
And huddled all, between the chairs,
And Into this camp I brought my stew,
And served it into bowls with spoons.
We chatted quietly, leant together,
Girls and boys, close and happy.
Seconds please? But I had made plenty
And we scooped it up with bread and fingers.
What was in it? I tasted ham.
And I tasted beef, and chicken, and beans!
I tasted cabbage. Can you put cabbage in stew?
I tasted tomato and basil too.
Pepper? And chilli? Something was spicy!
Tell us, man! What was in the pot?
I pulled my girl, so very close
And looked upon my loving friends,
Then I told them so very true
What was in the warming stew.
"First I put in comedy, our journey on the bus,
I put in the old lady that told us to hush.
Then I shoved in the hour that we spent in the market
Piling into boxes everything we wanted.
I put the rest of our money, the pennies we saved,
And I put the wet footsteps up the long trail.
I put in Erica's wellies and her sore feet,
And I put in Johns stupid Uke, that is never in tune.
I Added Fiona's scarf that got stuck on a gate,
And Fran's tales of football and smelly baths!
I put in that song, that Lucy sung quietly,
The one where we all hid our tears from each other.
I put in that joke that Jack told for hours,
That had no funny ending and no funny anything!
I stirred in some arguments that Lucy had with Jane,
And I poured in the tears when they made up again.
I chopped up stupidity and sprinkled it in,
And I seasoned with memories from when we were young.
And then, to its heart, I added one more thing
That gives it its goodness, its richness, its being.
The thing that binds dishes like it binds all my friends,
I poured in the love that I can see in this room.
So, eat up the meal and remember its taste
And never forget this everything stew."

So many years, and time has passed by
And I have lost contact with all in that cabin.
Some went abroad, two of them married,
One of them died, taking his joke with him.
The love of my life, was the love for the moment,
And she ran off to the circus, or perhaps became a hairdresser
Others, I know not, but it doesn't much matter
For the time in that cabin is all that I need.
It was the closest of moments, the best of all friendship
And when we finished the stew, we packed and went home.
For food shared together is love shouted loud,
And is the warmest of moments
When the storm rages long.
 

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