It's raining, not too hard
but too wet for words.
A red door opens and, twenty_one
steps above the low sheen of Mott
Street, someone is cooking for you.
In the kitchen, heady vapor
hisses its chant against the air:
autumn dragon's exhale rising,
pushing the small room to twice
its size and more. Pristine angles
of scallion, patient in their damp,
radiant sharpness, scatter wild
wisdom across the glossy red board.
Not a feast as if for two, but all our line as well_
a whole fish, seared on the gas fire, a whole
chicken, gently turned side to side every
fifteen minutes in water not quite boiling,
shiny bowls piled with glistening, glissando roots
-burdock, lotus, taro, peony, the spindling young
tap shoots of balmy white yam.
I know you know this food is medicine, you say,
But I did not know till now how it is that
Five Tastes tempt the rudderless mind, freed
to hunger at last.
greet me in the long crimson hall
my hand slips like rain
over the sleek hair above your neck
as if it has strayed there in longing always
Above tea, your eyes pool and darken,
sober plums in drunken shadow.
Flavors of ten thousand evenings never
ended gather on my tongue and dissolve
like ancestors glimpsed in cooking smoke.
We drown in a gladness tonight
and shimmer with tender ease
in the coiling tides of Chinatown.
Hing Kwai, older brother, I still hear you
tell me that we are safe as pearls
cast into a sea, deftly eluding harvest,
dressed in Five Tastes glory
for no adornment but our own.