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.