To a Son Learning the Art of Cooking

By Generoso Opulencia

(This poem won the first prize in the 2000 Home Life Poetry Contest.)

Every herb, red, yellow or green
has its proper cooking time—
You are beginning to know
as we pour
okra bits into the pan
of carrots, onions, shrimps
and sliced white gourd:
a goodly smell from fatherly bond this noon
that seems to know no bounds.

Your mother’s finishing
her laundry
at the steps of the kitchen

in the shadow
of shroudlike sheets
shielding her
from the sun.
as you carry the pan
away from the fire
I recall
your grandfather
one week now in his grave:

how he’d pour pail after pail
of clear well water
into the tub
where your mother
was rinsing our clothes.