Hospitality: A Poem

By Rachel Hicks

Sichuan, China

In the lean-to kitchen the farmer’s wife

juliennes and crushes, shivers of onion

flying from the blade, steam hitting 

cold mist at the open door.

I thrust booted feet at the tin 

of hot coals under the table outside 

and wait, wondering how many 

spontaneous meals have serviced me 

in my wanderlusting? How much 

ambrosial heat, sear and spice, 

plumping bulgar and pitted peach?

It seems to be our needful thing

to forage for the magic within our reach—

the translucent rice grains,

the flesh of all creatures griddled or charred,

the way we wonder if nourishment exists

in snapdragon, the cathaya’s winged seed—

all the tastes we haven’t dared.

And we wonder if the damp earth still 

has secrets to disclose that could remain 

wondrous and unstained even by our knowing, 

our prodding and splitting 

with the knife or the tongue.

She emerges balancing three dishes

on outstretched arms and sets them 

on the table, shrinking back in pleasure 

and gesturing with a gentle turn of hand. 

Eat! It’s just a little something.

*Originally published in Pen in Hand journal, 2017

Note on the poem:

My husband and kids and I lived from 2006 to 2013 in Sichuan province, China. I’m fascinated with how different cultures exhibit hospitality (a way of life with which American culture seems sometimes painfully unpracticed), and how in Sichuan that often manifests in incredible creativity with food. When dining out with Chinese friends who did the ordering, I almost never had the same dish twice.

Rachel E. Hicks is the editor of Among Worlds magazine. She was born in the foothills of the Himalayas and spent the bookends of her childhood in India, with moves to Pakistan, Jordan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Hong Kong in between. She lived with her husband and two children in Arizona (US) and China. Since 2013 they have lived in Baltimore, Maryland, US. Rachel writes poetry, fiction, essays, and blog



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