Fall 2010 / Issues / Poetry 2010 / Volume 41

A Recipe for Diaspora — Iris Garcia

I attempt to cook today.

Chop onions and tomatoes,

stir rice measured by the cup of my palm

into hot oil.

I sprinkle cumin seed liberally across the surface

and see my mother’s hands.

My mother’s hands pinch salt into the pan,

add water, do not stir.

I’ve never been able to make my mother’s rice;

mine is often dry, or over-spiced.

But today my mother’s hands have joined me

as I cook alone, turning from countertop to stove

within the three-foot confines of this kitchen’s yellowed walls.

Her scars and calloused fingertips add the flavor

that anchors me to a place that tastes like home.

The rice my mother makes is tinged with a migrant’s longing,

with the slight bitterness of displacement,

the sweetness of memory,

the spiciness of ambition.

It is textured by the heartiness of atonement.

My hands do not own such stories,

cannot bestow these seasonings;

they are merely shredded fingernails and deep ravines of palm lines

that stem fro anxiety, from the fantasy that my life has a purpose

or meaning beyond what I can grasp–

a meaning I yearn to uncover

buried in the grains, in the taste of my mother’s rice.

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