my mother brings only a plastic bag to California.
for you, she says, handing the miniature kitchen
equipment for playing house.
But mainly, so you can cook with me.
& to my mother, I am pressed small by California,
tossed from a hospital window into poppy embers
before the first embrace. first gaze, first word, smeared
in salt wind & trout.
In her steel container, the flour fossilizes her
paper knuckles. she holds my palm to melting ghee.
it will remember you, child.
I know that she is preserving these words in jars of
pickled mango and ginger.
it is what ripe lemons can never give you.
& in the kitchen, my knife cut runs dry of men playing
cattleherd, grazing bruised cornfields when the mines
spit rust & combing the silken dirt of these
fractured ghost towns.
She tells me to protect my fingers.
They are your inheritance.
Fragmented skeletons in river-stained pans & starved,
brass-bellied fish on cutting board.
We fry okra in cumin and coriander, slow, steady.
We eat the bhaji with bandaged fingers.
It’s okay if we sit at different tables.
*bhaji: cooked vegetable dishes