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Macedonian Bean Soup – Karen Paul Holmes

I used to pass the Heavenly Ham shop,

think of the bean soup

Father taught my ex to make

and see them in our kitchen

chopping yellow onions just so, 

the secret pinch of mint,  

peppers a little too hot for me

but not for them, 

how of all the sons-in-law

he was the one who asked to learn,

how I would never have his soup again.


That sadness—some said   

it would linger, that my cheerful self

would have a chink,

but it would add character.


These years later, the leaving

has become a blessing.

I read my ex’s tomato-splashed

notes, but it’s Father’s accent I hear

and the sizzle of ham hocks browning.


Beans and broth stew in my La Creuset

with peppers from a local farm.

I’ve moved to the shore

of a silver-blue lake,

where mountains echo fireworks

on the Fourth of July,

chinks of brilliance in a black sky.

This poem and its accompanying recipe are published in Holmes's book No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018).


Karen Paul Holmes has two poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). Her poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer's Almanac and Tracy K. Smith’s The Slowdown. Publications include Diode, Valparaiso Review, Lascaux Review, and Prairie Schooner. To support fellow writers, she founded and hosts the Side Door Poets in Atlanta.

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