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When My Mother Cooks

Over the slow burn of Billie Holiday songs

- cliched, perhaps, but the truth -

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I hear something sauteing in a skillet.

The smell soon gives things away:

Onions are involved, to be sure. Garlic,

maybe. The wet sprigs of parsley

gleam as if fished from undersea.

My mother is cooking this afternoon.

And when she was simply Miss Alvarez

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(she had often told me) she would watch

her mother work away the woes of marriage

by cooking until it hurt, by making

unlikely masterpieces called pasteles out of hard,

green bananas and pork and olives and cilantro.

My mother makes those, but only

on special occasions and not today, because today

is just an ordinary day, because she is a woman

at peace in her marriage. My mother cooks

because she loves to cook. Nothing else.

Her movements around the kitchen

seem planned and haphazard.

Unconcerned with expense, humming Holiday,

she rubs crocus leaves and lets the saffron oil

spill generously.

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