The Friday Poem on 07/07/23
There’s something gloriously, affirmingly redemptive about ‘Mom cooks fish’ by Samiksha Ransom – our Friday Poem this week. Ransom’s poem explores the preparing and sharing of food within her family and finds something holy and transformative in the process. Cooking fish is a ritual that roots the family in its own history, and works as a conduit for passing knowledge down through generations. But the family dynamic also involves transgression, and repentance, and perhaps a refusal to follow a traditional path. It’s an intensely personal poem, and yet it touches on things familiar to us all.
Mom cooks fish
from my nose to my chest
i feel the pangs of panic
and want to un-smell it
swish of the sea in my mouth
pounding in my chest.
when mom cooks fish
it sits in my plate sulking
and wants to swim right out
i nibble the fillet with coffee
to numb its assault on my tongue.
i scrape at its scratchy skin
and relinquish my fork
that chimes like a proxy apology.
at home no one dotes on fish
except my mother
who is devoted to fish to absurdity.
at the murkiness of dusk
when papa brings home fish after work
some sorcery unfolds
and ages her backwards.
her blood is a deep rivulet of sindoor
she blooms like a marigold come of age
kitchen floor turns holy ground
into which she invites my sinner’s feet.
a baptism of fish caught
fish that escaped
fish served on 19th century chinaware plates
i nest in anecdotes and histories.
recipes from her mother and her mother’s mother
sermons of fried fish, fish curry, fish pickle.
pickled fish is generations of incense
at the kitchen counter
the trinity-sanctioned rohu
gazes back at me from fancy chinaware
and patiently awaits its ritual offering
always add crushed rye to fish pickle
she imparts a handful to the jar
closes the lid and seals the rite.
i steal mercy-glances at the sky
– my feet are always sore on holy ground.
her sermon interrupted
eyes fixed like in a swoon
she nudges me
i will need this counsel later
when i migrate, inhabit, populate. when
omega and fatty acids have mended my glum.
she invites me back into her sanctum.
do deities hunger
for the love of habitual transgressors?
but these days i repent my coffee.
i know i know
i will never cook fish
ingest a salty sea
or start my own family
but these days i marinate in archives
nibble at a third fish fillet.
at this altar fish is fecundity
i am sinner saved.