茄子 Eggplants

Translated by Martha Cheung  

A chopstickful of Chinese vermicelli
into the mouth
It seems to be mixed with
eggplants cooked to a mush

Memories surface, of the first time we met
somehow we chatted about eggplants
I remember you said you grew up in Taiwan
your dad was a Cantonese, your mum from Beijing
I forgot to ask how your folks cooked eggplants
did you cook it first, leave to cool and dress it with sesame oil?
eat it with a hot, fish-flavoured sauce? or have it Cantonese style --
stewed fish with eggplants, stewed chicken with eggplants?

Isn't it amazing our thoughts all travel from food
to culture bonds, from reactions of the body and
cravings of the palate to our relations with the world?
We travel non-stop, in the interval between
the lifting of one cooking lid and another, going after
the taste of fermented soya beans
stopping by a pool of dried soy sauce
studying the traces

In my old home, shabby but comfortable, I remember
those plump eggplants mother bought
placed right in the centre of the sitting room, like Buddha
to be revered. In time life turned chaotic, abroad, alone
I could never recapture that taste in my cooking

With what mixed feelings, I wonder, your parents
had followed the flux of emigrants and crossed the wide seas
Their speech becoming mixed with hybrid fruit, new vegetables
their tongues slowly getting used to foreign seasonings
Like many of their generation, everyone began to drift away

From a centre, their appearance changed.
But now and then from shreds of something here and bits of
something elsewhere we discover a vaguely familiar taste
like meat and skin cooked to a mush, gone apart
back together again: that taste of ourselves, extinct, distinct

1997


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Copyright © AIEL 2008. All words and images are the property of Leung Ping Kwan and his associates. All Rights Reserved.