Caldo Verde (Soup with Collard Greens)
Remember stepping off that bus in São Martinho do Porto?
The old lady at the stop, her leading us up the hill to her house,
how she took our passports and euros, moved in with her mother.
Our dinners on the roof, sheltered by stars, the silence of the sea.
Remember always starting with your caldo verde? Dark green
like seaweed. How on that last evening we poured the rest away,
watched it block the sink. And how we couldn’t find a plunger
so bought a product to shift it, emptied the lot, headed out for a drink.
Remember getting back, going to the kitchen to check on progress?
Finding the pumice eaten away, the metal drain and pipe exposed.
How we covered it with the plastic basin, the old lady next morning
ringing her own bell. And how we pocketed our passports and fled.
Remember running for that train? As it moved through the town,
how we slid down in our seats. How we felt guilty for the old lady,
lived in fear of the old lady. How at dinner parties we told the story
of Portugal and our old lady, you serving up your caldo verde.
Paul Stephenson has three poetry pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), which won the Poetry Business pamphlet competition; The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016), written after the November 2015 terrorist attacks; and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He helps curate Poetry in Aldeburgh. His debut collection 'Hard Drive' will be published by Carcanet in summer 2023. Website: paulstep.com / Instagram: paulstep456 / Twitter: @stephenson_pj