Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Two Kitchens

by Uche Ogbuji


I was alone, but my hand took on my mother’s,

Hovering over the pot with a command gesture,

Smothering all thought inessential to the task,

All distractions from the essences I’d ranged:

Cinnamon, cardamom, and then, snake-charmed

From coriander, cumin and turmeric

I swelled to the stove, which sprang wormhole

To Chengdu, to Tehran, to Kabul and Lhasa,

And over the möbius loop to Lomé, Yaoundé and Calabar.

To fistfuls of waterleaf, utazi sprinklings,

Periwinkle with the waste ends sheared,

All royal spit-curl prominences,

And the languages that whirly-jigged that kitchen,

Umon, Efik, Igbo, English,

Scolding, praise, intrigue, the neighbor’s business

The neighbor’s rat-skulled dog,

The sudden spark shunted all that distance

To light the burner, snapping me to the present,

Checking my shirt for scorch marks

(how long had I stood in fugue with the gas on?)

My burnt fingertip and singe-haired nose

Led me back to my duty where a spiced lamb dish

Awaited its anointed assembly.