Stone Soup … A Retrospective of My Life
by Steven A. Johnson

My foundation is now solid …
Each facet of me solidly grouped,
But I grew up rocky … Raised on stone soup.
I took my first steps barefoot on a bed of gravel,
Signifying the rough road that my life would travel.
I grew up hard. Took jaw-crushing bites off a hard-knock life.
My soul food was not seasoned with love, but was sauteed in struggle and served with strife.
So dense that I couldn’t cut it with a knife. It didn’t taste right.

You see daddy wasn’t there to give me recipes to follow …
And mama’s temporary chefs made things difficult to swallow.
I was force-fed large helpings of that nonsense, but my stomach remained hollow,
Depressed because I know what is being served tomorrow.
Mouth constantly stained with the bitter aftertaste of sorrow.

I felt that these monotonous meals would continue,
Until I went to Big Mama’s house and got introduced to a whole different menu.
Hospitality was Southern-fried …
Love sweeter than candied yams on the side.
“Eat up baby!” she said with pride.
And I did. Took in so much, I almost burst at the sides!

She gave me recipes on life.
What to feed my future kids,
How to appetize my future wife
Everything prepared with care.
I could have seconds, thirds … Abundance was there.

I sit and look back at the meals of my youth.
Every single recipe … How to season it right. What I should and should not do.
The happiness of my children is living proof.
Their food for the soul is served with the sweetest love, and spiced with nurturing truth.
Every meal in my past has made each facet of me solidly grouped
Therefore my babies will not know the difficult flavor of stone soup.

Steve A Johnson lives in Raleigh

After the Poetry Workshop
by Mary Hennessy

The woman, old as Sarah,
hears the talk of the men outside the tent and
she does laugh.

Over oranges and buttered bagels,
she asks the Lord and the two fellows with him:

Am I to have this pleasure now,
now that I am worn out?

Yes, he says,
juggling light, a top hat and a small rabbit,

All that hear laugh with her.
And on her knees,
she leans over her rounded belly,
and washes his dusty feet.

Mary Hennessy lives in Raleigh

Paris, The Grief Poem
by Sherryl Kleinman

It begins two days before
She returns to North Carolina,
land of the large indoor kitchen,
not the outdoor cafe.
Land of the carousel of Southern voices,
not the Arret! of French.

In Paris she returns to childhood in Montreal.
The girl who was Anglophone, yet not English,
who learned French–sort of.
The girl learning she was a Jew,
falling through liminal space,
caught in collision between English and French.

She loved the French r,
the joie de vivre of the Quebecois,
but knew the natives could detect
the tongue of the oppressor,
no matter how trained her accent.

Even now, when she visits Montreal,
she becomes tongue-tied.
She lies. “Je suis Americaine,”
she says, and breaks into French.
“Vous parlez tres bien,” the clerk says,
and her smiling tongue clickety-clacks.

When she speaks French in Paris
she is not the Maudite Anglaise,
–Damn English–of Quebec,
just a foreigner who is trying.

In North Carolina she is a resident alien
who occasionally crosses an ocean
to find home in the corner of a cafe
where woman and cup
meet lip to lip.

Sherryl Kleinman lives in Chapel Hill