This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021.
Kimchi :: In Trujillo
My mother and her wooden cooking spoon. A pot filled with water
and an ambiguous amount of all-purpose flour
instead of rice flour. She stirs. The water turns milky. It turns
thicker, stickier—the smell of starch dissipates into the air.
It occurs to me that my mother’s arm is an orbiting moon, unable to escape
the gravity of a planet much larger than itself.
My mother with salt on the palm of her hand, her arm extending
toward a ray of noon. She compares the Peruvian salt to another
memory. This unfamiliar salt in front of her eyes
is a thinner crystal. She licks her fingers. It’s slightly sour.
She asks me to come and have a taste, but I
have nothing to compare it with yet.
My mother slicing onions, spring onions, radishes—
into whatever size she thinks would be “a pleasure to eat.”
My mother’s measuring tool: her intuition, her philosophy
that a fixation with perfection deters one from pouring jeong
into the food. Jeong, she teaches me, is love
that comes with time, similar to the process of fermentation,
similar to the slow dyeing of brined leaves.
My mother’s concave back as she squats over the blue rim
of a plastic tub in the laundry room. The Napa cabbages inside are
as wide as my childish hips—rare in Trujillo, rare like the Korean pepper flakes
my mother has been saving by mixing them with ají panca. The translucent
plastic gloves covering her hands are smeared with bright candy red
and the green of spring onions. She tells me to go sleep first. I dream of her
hands carefully running between the cabbage leaves, even today,
half a continent away, making sure no white spot is left untouched.
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