Its stench souses the atmosphere
of a buried autumn —
thick and sharp.
“Bring mama a handful, not one at a time!”
You chided while mashing fruit
between your fingers —
eject nut into plastic
and discard ochreous mush
of pulp and skin —
odor piercing air like a death aria.
With hunch and squat we scavenged
the exquisite college ground,
upturning carpets of aureate leaves for strays —
crude immigrant and child.
A white student approached for
polite anthropological inquisition.
“We eat,” you mustered, with a smile.
My year of alien tongue failed explication.
At home you flushed water at the harvest,
set hull to dry in four weeks of winter light,
then retrieved it to kitchen and,
with pestle, tenderly
cracked each shell to expose the prize.
Summarily, surgeon-like, you excised the
final sheath concealing the jewel,
plump xanthic embryo formed like tear.
You set fire to water,
dropped three fistfuls into the pot,
a snip of ginger, flick of salt,
a clump of dried longan,
copious shards of soy skin,
melt in rock sugar when the melange is tender,
then swirled through a cloud of beaten egg.
You ladled a cup and,
with a grin broad and plain like
noonday Sun, assigned me the potion.
I take it to mouth, again,
curious elixir of meager means.
It is silken, and sweet, and soothes
as hot brew drains down the length of me.
I nibble at the bean,
luxurious seed of wretched origin;
its flesh scarcely bitter, and fragrant,
like a peasant bride’s joy on her wedding’s eve.
I embark on another, and with each slurp
and gnash and gulp, commit it to permanence.
Is this an oath of your love for me?
Sublime concoction dredged from millenia expired.
Or the wage of my loyalty?
Is it exhortation to abide in inheritance?
Must we always shoulder the memory of a people?
I’ve not your strength.
You are tigress by birth —
indomitable Amazonian of the Pearl,
and Mekong, token first-born son,
deliverer of nine siblings into the world.
No warrior am I,
but fragile, so quick to impulse,
oft given to inner flight.
Yet in this season hung in ripeness,
I’m called not to translation,
I care not for anthropology —
only that my child might know the rot
and splendor of a vulgar fruit.