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Aunties love it when seafood is on sale

By Kay Ulanday Barrett

Argyle Redline, Chicago, IL., June 1996

In summertime, the women
in my family spin sagoo
like planets, make
even saturn blush.
They split the leaves
of kang kong with
riverbed softness.

They are precise;
measure rice by palm lines
with laughter and season
broth made of creature’s last gasps.
You’d swear they were
teenagers again, talking gossip
stretching limbs
elastic, durable, like seaweed.

     Come dinner time,
skilled mouths slurp
through the domes of
shrimp and crab.

They
prize the fat,
the angles of their teeth
splinter claw, snap sinew,
dip tart into sweet
then back again;
bitterness balanced,
succulence on succulence,
is to find flesh from even the
smallest of spaces.

Women who swallow whole,
who make a pile of bones,
who suck teeth,
taste every morsel,
so that all that is left
is a quiet room
and shells of what once was.

To the daughters of dried fish nets
whose dreams dragged on sand,
dragged to this country,
they bring home recipe years later,
flick joints to garlic,
salabat to the sick,
culinary remix, teach cousins,
this is how we stay alive,
mourning in the Midwest
by taste bud.

Afterwards, they keep the ocean
husks for another meal
because to get a good deal
is to double.
And anybody from the island
will tell you,
that is where true flavor is

and what is hunger
anyway, but the carving
out of emptiness,
the learning you gotta always
always save something
for later?

 


 

 

Listen as Kay Ulanday Barrett reads "Aunties love it when seafood is on sale."

Added: Monday, November 19, 2018  /  Used with permission.
Kay Ulanday Barrett
Photo by Jess X. Chen.

Kay Ulanday Barrett aka @brownroundboi is a poet, performer, and cultural strategist, navigating life as a disabled pilipinx-amerikan transgender queer. They are a fellow of VONA, The Home School, Lambda Literary, and Drunken Boat retreats. They are 2018 Guest Faculty for The Poetry Foundation, 2018 Writer-in-Residence for Poetry at Lambda Literary Review, and Co-curator at Asian American Writers Workshop. K. has featured on stages like The Lincoln Center, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Chicago Historical Society, Brooklyn Museum, The New York City Poetry Festival, The Dodge Poetry Festival, Tucson Poetry Festival, The Guild Literary Complex, The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and National Queer Arts Festival. They have featured in Vogue, PBS News Hour Poetry, Asian American Literary Review, VIDA, The Deaf Poets Society, NYLON, Apogee, Entropy, and Race Forward, among others. When The Chant Comes, is their first book of poetry (Topside Press, 2016). Their second book, More Than Organs, is forthcoming (Sibling Rivalry Press, Spring 2020). Please visit their website.

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