BONE BROTH by Mia Leonin

It begins with a recipe. No, it begins with a phone call.


Aunt Frances calls from the cosmos’ first flicker –

when animals stood up on hind legs, gawking

hang-jawed at the stars.


Aunt Frances calls

and sighs her breath of blood orange

and sardines into the phone.


Her moon is a blind man’s thumb

in a forest. Her star, the rusted spur

of a forgotten Sunday afternoon movie.


Aunt Frances calls, all mush-mouthed and grackled.

Her punctuation, her parentheses even,

sinks between the ellipses of her meds.


After all these years, her mind still can’t drown itself.

It bobs to the surface: seven hospitalizations

and thirty-two electroshock treatments in three months.


As a child, I held my bladder to avoid the uterus-shaped rubber bag

hanging in her bathroom, its tubes snaking within the folds

of the mold-splotched shower curtain.


Collapsed sack, moon sickness, hysteria –

Grandmother heckled.

Mother rolled her eyes.


Aunt Frances commanded nothing.

The cockroaches didn’t even scatter

when she shook a cereal box.


As steam rises from a boiling pot

and stuns the window, I too will rise

and write my aunt’s name against the cold.


I will make her a soup.


I’ll roast sturdy femurs of lamb and mutton with dried rosemary.

I’ll cover their bones with cold spring water

and stir clockwise until the broth boils.

For three days this broth will bubble

until bones soften to flesh, indentations

appear to the touch.


I will make her a soup.


Bone marrow will congeal and seep strength

into her blood. Minerals and amino acids

will leach into her organism.


Aunt Francis’ mind has circled the cure

these many decades:

Lithium, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft.


Her Nurse Ratched

was never movie trivia:

They’d just tackle and zap us with no anesthesia.


I will make her a soup.


I’ll pour broth and bones

through cheesecloth

and squeeze out the good.


May lymph and liver flush away her woes.

May thyroid metabolize her testimony:


she was the family snow globe,

a transparent sphere, shaken

and set down in a faraway corner.


Aunt Frances and I are the only family we have left.


Into the broth, I will lower precious stones: ruby

to fortify her blood, sapphire to sharpen her mind,

emerald to honor her birth.


I’ll pick the partridge clean of its ribcage,

add turnip and rutabaga,

root bags of cruciferous earth nuzzlers.


I’ll place gold ducats

and laurel-stamped doubloons

at the bottom of her bowl.


May this soup’s estuaries swift her away on a pontoon

of seared sunlight and yellow jonquils.


As a child, Aunt Frances stared

at a strand of her hair, pulling it

like a lost guitar chord snapped into silence.


Baptismal comb raked over her scalp. Liturgical scissors

snipping kyrie, kyrie. A cascade of water passed over

Aunt Frances’ head, the knotted and coarse made clean.


May her spleen Zeitgeist her most humiliating memories:


she danced the watusi,

her yellow-crocheted bikini

dripping into the snow.


Her cupid lips bellowed operatic

as she threatened my mother with a steak knife.

At Christmas she mailed us exquisitely wrapped TV dinners.


Aunt Frances: I want to stuff your pockets with stones

to see if you float, drown,

or finally save yourself.


Instead, I will drop stones into your soup.


Soaked and scrubbed,

an explosion trillions of years ago, blasted

minuscule craters and unseen ridges


into these stones, like you,

the stuff of stars.



“Bone Broth” ends with a paraphrase of Carl Sagan’s quote, “We are made of star stuff.”