Mouth Song

In the mountain city,
twelve cats gathered
in the alley behind the dim
sum restaurant with my name.

I do not believe
the urban legends—
I like my steamed meat bun
best with Chinese sausages;

I’ve had a few with salty
duck egg. The puckered,
fluted edges are stamped
with the end of a chopstick

dipped in red food dye so you
can tell which one is which.
So long since we beheld
the glory of a whole

suckling pig, lechon
de leche
. How many of them
could you fit lengthwise
like a ship in a clear

glass bottle? Do you want
to know how many heirloom beads
were given for my hand at my
first marriage? (None.

That was just a joke.)
My father, when he was still
alive, tore off the crackling
ear, the whole savory tongue

to put into my babies’
mouths. We do not have
Rosetta stones, but o
we have taste buds.

Desire was our first
teacher: blood, guts,
marrow, mineral tang;
gristle, and then the long

sweet shank that simmered
until the meat fell off
the bone. Taste made us
learn as much as we could

about the world, before
we even saw it. Taste
made us restless: rooting,
sniffing at the door

of all we imagined
we could have.


In response to Via Negativa: Divided loyalties.

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