REFUGEE KITCHEN RICE BIN
After Bryan Thao Worra
My mother counts gạo to the sound
of California storm. She keeps the bin full
when sirens echo. Like today. And tomorrow.
And the tomorrow when there isn’t one.
I have never felt more like a refugee’s child
than I do clutching a plate full with reserve,
every bite, the same prayer
to different gods.
Even in apocalypse, my mother cooks
with the same refugee kitchen rules:
the more bruised the heart,
the more fragrant the fish sauce.
Sing the broth to boil faster.
When the rain arrives,
open the door for heartbeats
traveling on trails of smoldering sandalwood.
Serve every permutation of spices ground
down to the memory of harvest day.
Always keep an extra serving
Đỗ Nguyên Mai is a Vietnamese poet from Santa Clarita, California. They are the author of Ghosts Still Walking (Platypus Press, 2016) and Battlefield Blooming (Sahtu Press, 2019). They have work forthcoming in They Rise Live a Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets (Blue Oak Press, 2020) and Read Ritual: An Anthology (Locked Horn Press, 2020). Mai is the 2019 Locked Horn Press Publication Prize winner and a 2019 Sophie Kerr Prize finalist, in addition to a having received funding from the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund for their literary work.