Eating Dried Fish With Our Hands

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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Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

4 Replies to “Eating Dried Fish With Our Hands”

  1. A HUNGRY MEMORY

    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
    09-25-11

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