Making Steamed Buns

Because he is still mourning
his father who cooked most
meals every day of his life,

his father who passed
away unexpectedly in early
winter— today he is cooking.

He is scouring the stores
for cuts of meat, for hoisin
sauce, for rice vinegar

and anise. He inspects the jar
of yeast in the refrigerator
and deems it past its prime.

He is sifting flour
into the wide-mouthed bowl
of the stand mixer— one of two

concessions versus doing things
in completely the old-fashioned way
(the other being vegetable shortening

in place of rendered pig fat).
While yeast from a fresh packet
blooms in a bowl, he measures carefully,

leveling everything dry with the edge
of a knife. The water begins to sing
beneath slats of the bamboo basket;

the house fills with clouds of spice
and steam. He’s folded back the sleeves
of his shirt: intent from the effort

to neatly pleat filled circles of dough
and slide them on squares of parchment,
his expression resembles so much

his namesake’s. As pillowy mounds of bread
rise, he waits for the first one to lift onto
the waiting plate. There’ll be more than enough

to last a couple of weeks, enough to sample now.
The quiet pleasure of this memory: gathering the dough
into a ball, his father patiently watching it grow.

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