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A Fine Meal

A fine Chinese meal,
my mother told me,
is made of five flavors,
a blending of elemental portions.

What is sour

How simple, salt, she said,
and how necessary,
married as she is to water.

And there, always, is savory

Child, proceed lightly with bitter, she warned.
(Who has not known its pinch?)
Cooling to the heart,
it favors full sun, its joy in fire.

Lastly, two kisses of sweet

A fine Irish meal,
my father told me,
is a made thing,

constructed with care,
(like the spire of a skyscraper
or the precision of a cesium beam)

concocted from what is available
(like that shard of blue limestone, jagged in your hand
and those mounds of cool moss, lush underfoot.)


Nancy Chen Long

Light into Bodies
University of Tampa Press

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