How Mẹ Makes Rice ~ a poem by Jason Yore

Photo by Huy Phan.

Take at least three scoops from wherever it has been hidden and listen to the grains scatter in your vessel.

Slide the bag or box [your hidden chest] back before you move onto the next step.

If you’re able, let ice cold water flow into this basin. Even if your fingers are numb, continue to mix well until the water turns to milk.

Drain and rinse again. I’ve been told to repeat this until everything is clear or less murky.

Once you’re satisfied with the conditions, plunge your index finger straight down like an anchor until you’ve reached the bottom.

Take your middle finger and curl it back into a backwards P, the one you kept making well into first grade, measuring the line where rice meets water.

Bring your index finger back up and touch the soft, white bedding, middle finger still curled into its shape—a sign you’d learned to make before signs ever mattered, before affiliations ever mattered.

Now ask yourself, does the water touch the belly of this intersection? If it doesn’t, add more until it does.

If it does, you’re almost ready.

You may find that all this is only tradition and starting means starting after you’ve made the necessary considerations. Start making rice before you start making anything else, she said, because you’ll forget it and it’s the most important aspect of any meal.

The last part is just finding the right balance between boiling and steam. In between rage and rest.

This is hard to teach and hard to learn, so you make rice every day for every meal until it makes you proud, until it’s the centerpiece of all you’ve created.

Jason Yore is an ESL and Continuing Ed. instructor based in Southern California. His pieces have been included in publications such as Indicia, RipRap, Carnival Literary Magazine, and Bank-Heavy Press. He calls Little Saigon, Orange County, California his home, where he lives with his three girls, two cats, and one wife.


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