This poem came out of the December 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from moonwolf1988, aldersprig, and a previous conversation with marina_bonomi about traditional Italian livestock and related customs. It has been sponsored by marina_bonomi.
I was intrigued to learn that in Italy, the equivalent of chicken soup is pigeon soup. So when a prompt came in for the use of soup for healing, I immediately thought of that. I managed to find a decent recipe for pigeon soup online, though bear in mind that ingredients would vary with local availability, custom, and -- if the cook is a competent herbalist -- the symptoms at hand. And yes, even culinary herbs have a surprising amount of medicinal properties, so the ones in the poem do match up.
Autumn came to the village
trailing skirts of oppressive grey rain.
Soon people began to get sick
and Fiorenza was kept busy
dashing from herb garden to stillroom.
Mad Ercole sat beside the hearth,
patiently stirring the cauldrons there.
Fiorenza felt his eyes upon her
as she hurried up to the dovecote
for yet another bird.
"If this keeps up much longer,"
the herbalist grumbled,
"we shall soon run out of pigeons!"
"Maybe that means," said Ercole,
"that something more than pigeon is needed."
Fiorenza thought about that.
Pigeon made for a rich, soothing broth
good for tempting the slack appetites of sick people.
There was garlic to help the body fight,
rosemary for strength and purification,
carrot for nourishment and revitalization.
But this time ... it wasn't quite working
as well as it usually did.
So Fiorenza wandered through the village
in search of answers, or failing that,
a more useful set of questions.
and the baker said "Salute!"
and the brewer said, "Felicita!"
Fiorenza herself sneezed,
and the priest said, "Che Dio ti benedica!"
and just like that, something shifted.
Quickly Fiorenza snagged Don Candido
by his sleeve and asked,
"Why did you say a blessing?"
"Had you not noticed we have a plague of imps?"
said Don Candido, clearly distracted.
"A plague of imps," mused Fiorenza.
"I was minding the plague of colds, myself."
"Sometimes the Devil sends imps
to spread sickness," the priest pointed out.
"That would explain," Fiorenza muttered,
"why my pigeon soup is less than effective."
"It takes prayers to drive out infernal influences,"
said Don Candido, "and I'm out of rosemary!"
"I'm nearly out of it myself," said Fiorenza.
"It's the stems I need, not the leaves,"
said the priest, "for burning as incense
to remind people of their health."
"Oh, the stems I have left,"
said Fiorenza, and went to fetch some.
So Don Candido stayed up and up,
praying over the altar,
burning candles of beeswax
and the stems of rosemary,
working hard to drive away the imps
that were making everyone so sick.
"If you don't get some sleep,"
Fiorenza pointed out,
"you're going to catch cold yourself."
Don Candido merely shrugged
and said, "I could say the same about you
running about in the autumn rains,
especially as you forgot your cloak again."
Which was true and true,
as it proved out, for the turning of the week
found both Don Candido and Fiorenza
sniffling in bed -- but by that time,
the prayers had banished the imps so that
the pigeon soup soon made everyone feel better
exactly as it was supposed to do.