Friday Poem

Aunties love it when seafood is on sale

In summertime, the women
in my family spin sagoo
like planets, make
even saturn blush.
They split the leaves
of kang kong with
riverbed softness.

They are precise;
measure rice by palm lines
with laughter and season
broth made of creature’s last gasps.
You’d swear they were
teenagers again, talking gossip
stretching limbs
elastic, durable, like seaweed.

Come dinner time,
skilled mouths slurp
through the domes of
shrimp and crab.

prize the fat,
the angles of their teeth
splinter claw, snap sinew,
dip tart into sweet
then back again;
bitterness balanced,
succulence on succulence,
is to find flesh from even the
smallest of spaces.

Women who swallow whole,
who make a pile of bones,
who suck teeth,
taste every morsel,
so that all that is left
is a quiet room
and shells of what once was.

To the daughters of dried fish nets
whose dreams dragged on sand,
dragged to this country,
they bring home recipe years later,
flick joints to garlic,
salabat to the sick,
culinary remix, teach cousins,
this is how we stay alive,
mourning in the Midwest
by taste bud.

Afterwards, they keep the ocean
husks for another meal
because to get a good deal
is to double.
And anybody from the island
will tell you,
that is where true flavor is

and what is hunger
anyway, but the carving
out of emptiness,
the learning you gotta always
always save something
for later?

by Kay Ulanday Barrett
from Split This Rock