Hong-Shao Pork in an Earthen Pot
Three pinches salt and two cloves garlic,
a swirl of soy sauce, a crude earthen pot.
When nana cooked hong-shao (1) pork, the
simple secret was time. Always stir and stir and wait
until it would be well-done thrice over. So one day I
started stirring my summers and winters and waited
until they buttered over like velvety pork-skin. And
in that tender maelstrom I lost myself to my sorrows,
and to the sugary sap between my marrow, smudged
over me and all across. Tearing the pork
I unspooled time, now unwinding madly to bind the
fibers and jelly tendons I once sundered. Nana says
pork is better braised, and so am I, my sweetness seeps
through every bamboo floorboard and tile. Marinating
in that warm soy, I wove a new coat and was served
a saucerful of meng-po (2) soup, coaxing me in the
taste of ten thousand umami bursts. In my body I
paid that ancient ransom to become myself, so
now in the sauna I could feel my saucy wax not only
peeling into my mother’s skin and my own, but also
the skins that came far before, from that distant
land which strange soil I’ve never known.
Now and then I still dust off that old earthen pot,
just to cook ten minutes into ten hours.
(1) A type of braised pork where the meat is first marinated in dark soy-sauce.
(2) A soup served during reincarnation that erases the memory of a previous life.