‘Bread and Salt (Rice and Fish Sauce)’ by Joanne Leow

6 January, 2017 0 comment

Illustration by Patrick B. Fernandez

So this is me here,
loving in my kitchen
making extra portions, canning
jamming, buying too much,
returning laden, a strap
cutting into my arm
cutting, stirring, tasting
opening a 400°F oven and feeling
it like a slap in the face

Here am I, frying this
mess of rice and garlic
improvisational, barefoot.
Walking the aisles
of the ethnic supermarkets,
looking for childhood tastes,
old loves, new loves.

So you, you who have eaten
my food, your mouths that
have opened and closed on
grain, pulse, legume, spice
that I touched, heated, sauced,
simmered, plated. You whose
dirty plates I have scrubbed.
Your tongues, throats have felt the water
from my home, your lips on my
glasses.
My bread and salt
My rice and fish sauce.

Know that we share palates,
gullets, skin, hair.
Pain is certain. The way
leaving a long lived-in city
where you have shared your
table and pantry with so many
strangers is. So deny this at your
loss. There is no more food for you.


Joanne Leow is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. Her poetry and creative non-fiction have been published in Catapult Magazine, Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore, Little Things: An Anthology of Poetry (Ethos Books), and the now defunct Junoesq. She grew up in Singapore.

Illustration by Patrick B. Fernandez

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