COOKING FRUTTI DI MARE ON THIS EARLY EVENING BEFORE THE NIGHT FALLS ON KENTUCKY HILLSIDES
Today, as the locals love to say,
is so cold the wolves ate the sheep for the wool.
I open the bag.
The contents of the sea come frozen
and packed in plastic from Taiwan:
squid mantles cut into rings,
triangular fins, peeled shrimps,
octopus tentacles and mussel meat.
Garlic and onion sautéing
take the sound of rain.
I pour seafood into the wok
and the smell takes me to the sea.
I ride on the waves of brine
to a place bigger than all this white.
I am in America, cooking Italian,
a Filipino, outside is snow.
Frutti di Mare won’t go over pasta
but rice. This is my version of it.
The watery-sweet scent
lets me know rice is cooked. I lift
the lid and find pasty grains stout
and clumped, take last evening’s rice,
dry, left standing uncovered in my
kitchen all night. I grab a plastic ladle
and scoop chunks into the still
steaming cooker. Worlds ago
my grandmother reminded me never
to put yesterday’s rice
on top of recently cooked:
something about life
not prospering as you keep
putting the old above the new,
the old pressing down on the new.
These days sun is hard to come by,
rare as stalks of fresh green onions,
as I keep opening the door and walking
into the past, into old man weather,
a colonizer whipping my back.
My heart is a warm plate tonight.
Outside the snow is like cold rice.
—from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets
Mike Maniquiz: “Poetry is water. Let me explain. When I started writing, the results were initially gratifying. But as I got deeper into it, reading more poetry and writing poems that tried to shout back to poetry I was reading (Merwin, Vallejo, Levis, Hernandez, Wright), I found myself unsatisfied like a tree whose roots have to dig further down to find water.”