Eating Dried Fish With Our Hands

This entry is part 2 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011


Tonight, this kitchen is not a place
the foreign or the faint of heart
would willingly choose to enter:

I’ve fried a panful of air-dried, salted,
and butterflied fish
(is that why we hear
the wail of the neighbor’s cat, or is it merely

in heat?)— So what if the smoky haze sits
thick in the air, is likely seeping through
windows, clinging to drapes and furniture?

I’ve sliced three plum tomatoes to toss
with a squirt of lime, chopped scallions
and a handful of cilantro. All this,

because the homesick tongue has dreamt
thin, golden crumbs of fish dipped in
a saucerful of vinegar, crushed garlic,

and bird’s eye chillies; followed by
a mouthful of hot jasmine rice scooped
up with the fingers. Why is feasting

on and touching this simple food such
a pleasure? Mornings, we have a little
hail of cereal grains hitting the sides

of the bowl; then the thin, cold
stream of milk. Lunch is often skipped,
in favor of coffee. And how many times

can the trio of salad, meat, and potatoes
exercise their dinner charms? The stove
flicks on, the bottom of the pan heats

to a coppery red. Sometimes the hungry,
rusted parts of memory call out for more
salt, more tang: more time to linger.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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4 Replies to “Eating Dried Fish With Our Hands”


    Frolic among seaweeds we would gather into mounds
    not unlike this fall sundown’s first raking of the leaves:
    I remember him laughing at my crown of sargasso; I
    could still taste the brine on his fingers when he fed me
    masticated rice and dried fish singed over our seaside fire.

    O, Father, is there any way we could go back to that sea?

    Would the long shadows on these porch walls spring you
    out of my mind’s eye, dig you out of my heart? If I prayed
    like I have never begged before, will you to pull me out
    of this hammock, race me to the tallest rock on Poro Pt.?

    Will you then mockingly laugh how flabby I have grown,
    and how I needed to eat dried fish from your bare hands
    and wash them down with lemon-and-salt-spiked anise.?

    How long will this rusted memory last? Will you linger?

    — Albert B. Casuga

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