“When the Watched Pot Boils” By Kory Wells


When the Watched Pot Boils

You know time is getting by,
and you try to remember
all she told you:

Use both dark meat and white.
Save bone and skin and gristle
for the cat. Roll the dough thin
as a paper sack. Slice it into strips
no wider than your thumb.
You’d give up sweets for a month
to hold again her wood-handled knife,
its old blade so often sharpened
it was almost gone.

You think of these things
as you stand at the stove,
the kettle’s broth rolling.
Think of the stories she told.
That time a door-to-door peddler
tried to snatch her youngest.
That hot night she and her lover
broke every dish in the house.
That Sunday the kids ate
their own pet rooster for lunch.
Reminding you,
chicken and dumplings need
plenty of salt. You taste

that name passed down to her,
and she is with you,
barefoot, stirring the pot,
one eyebrow raised.
That hard T, that soft S,
the irony she was born
in Georgia and lies now
all too soon, in Alabama soil.

Some things are never right.
Some things are not better with time.
But maybe her name was perfect.
After all, how many of the stories
she told had a happy ending?


About the Author: Kory Wells is a poet, writer, storyteller, and advocate for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. In 2017 she was named the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she also founded and manages a reading series. Her poetry collection Sugar Fix is forthcoming from Terrapin Books. Read more of her work at korywells.com.


More By Kory Wells:

Untold Story


Image Credit: “Cooking spaghetti and frying chicken for a spaghetti supper at Grape Festival, Tontitown, Arkansas” (1941) The Library of Congress


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