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cooking lessons

Sitara Mitragotri

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

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