december 31st, 2000

(to wai po1)

the boy was old enough for chopsticks, yet not enough
for bittergourd fish soup. sifting for emerald strands,
he asked for a less bitter recipe. she smiled.
“make large chunks small, dip them in boiling water,

salt lightly. eat them whole to better yourself, dear.”
he rinsed them down with herbal tea, the lesser evil
none the sweeter. her gaze lingered, preserving
warmth in a mind hungry for answers, answers

which time denied. this boy was young enough to
know and not understand our last reunion in white
after a chunk stopped your heart – how your portrait
fills a distant home with your presence, how till today
bittergourd is no longer astringent; when no dish will
satisfy a missed last goodbye. this boy still rinses down
emerald strands with soup and rice, for he knows now
how memories are salted and boiled.

1maternal grandmother

Nicholas Quek is an undergraduate from NUS with a strange love for music, poetry, and the moments between breaths.

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