Memory of Eating with Hands

We were taught to eat with 
our hands, the whole hand; to scoop

rice and fish with all the fingers
and not just miserly thumb and index,

scrawny bird beak pecking through
gravel for leavings. A person

who knows how to eat like this
must be generous and forgiving,

no? Not afraid to get sauce
and grease on their fingers,

not ashamed to show who's boss
of their own circumstance

and lick the last traces
of honey and salt or garlic

oil. When I was a child afflicted
with blisters and allergies,

my mothers took turns coaxing
me to eat a little more.

While distracting me with stories,
they'd shape small cubes and pyramids

out of sticky rice, hide bits of meat
or vegetable inside like treasures

buried with the Pharaoh, who was
sometimes though rarely a woman—

Like Hatshepsut, who despite a chronic
skin condition built temples and monuments,

brought wealth of ivory and gold
from other lands. Sometimes she wore

a fake beard and man's kilt just because
she could. After she died, it's said her

stepson tried to erase all official memory
of her: doesn't he sound like a hater?

Whereas she's someone I can imagine
tearing the meat of fowl from a joint,

relishing fruit, washing everything
down with a generous gulp of wine.




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