When the ingredients are wet
without meaning to, you know
they’re going bad. The pumpkins
which only I can cook and the
kangkong my lola has final say over,
are opened to be thrown away.
How with one glance she knows
And I, who fumbles with the rotting
squash, am a little boy by comparison.
How will I ever tell her with the same hands—
soft like the mess of rice after she
teaches me again—that I am in love
and that I am the stove, the meals
being stirred under transformation?
Here is your grandson, the wok grease,
the pan bottom beneath her spatula,
my eyes in oily splendor while she fries the fish.
Will you laugh with me? I have cooked
for the gentleness of your tongue over the years
so recognize my heaving in the kitchen
heat in labor for your belly. Will my life
by the sharpness of your kitchen whittle
a smile from you? Kain na. Here are the
amber glass plates which you have washed
quietly over the years, which I have
broken once in negligence, and which are ours.
I am in love now and will you let me cook
for the both of you and could you pass her our water jug
so she could drink from our cup?
Rigel Portales is a self-taught Filipino poet afraid of disappearing. Fortunately, his works have appeared on the Oyster River Pages, Ghost City Review, and on his Twitter account @rijwrites where he writes to preserve and preserves to write. His biggest inspirations are his impenetrable sister and his beautiful parents.