Kabocha

Knobbed, deep green, rippled and striped; squat
as old grandmother on her haunches, weeding
in the back garden then bringing back frilled

trumpet shaped flowers, pale yellow;
and green tendriled shoots to drop into a broth
simply flavored with shrimp or fish—

this is the variety I think of when the season
turns to all things pumpkin. Being what we were,
descended on both sides of Ilocanos famous

for their thrift, in the kitchen every part
of every animal, vegetable, or mineral
was ripe for sacrifice to the gods

of our insatiable hunger: neck bones
for soup, skin for crackling, the orange
heads of shellfish bursting with fat

for sauces and sautés. Watermelon rinds
were carved into scrolls and left to sit
in syrup baths, and the rinds of bitter

melon pickled in cold brine. What the tongue
might not at first muster, it would learn
in time. More than chemistry, an alchemy:

after all, this was always about transformation—
how the poverty of one state could aspire
with prodding to something softer,

sweeter, richer. How a round of boiled
kabocha, mashed with a fork over a plateful of rice,
might acquire something of a runny egg’s gold resplendence.

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