by Regine Cabato
Mama peels the shells of shrimps.
Her hands are sunkissed, fingers breaking
carapace, pulling the strings that puppeted
the crabs across the ocean floor.
She mixes the meat into the paella. Claws
extend from a seabed of golden rice, beckoning
to the child: Here is the aligue. Even the humble shrimps
initiated by the untamed labuyo.
There is lapu-lapu, dory, marlin
boneless, creamed, soured
by calamansi. Mama cuts
through the thin layer of scales
so steam escapes the fish, smoky scent
scattering through the air as bubbles in water.
She pulls the tongues of clams so that the food
may speak. The taste of ink from squid
is only the taste of language: Dulce
coats the tongue with sugar,
pica jolts it with spice, agrio rattles
its edges, resisting submission.
These flavors are stolen, if not guessed.
Mama will lay this meal on another table;
she collects, they go home to stubborn grain
and eat tuyo, the patis is drained down
the boy's throat and he thinks only
of how salty the sea is, how singular
its flavor, how Father and his father before him
are more fishers for men than fishermen.
Regine Cabato works as a multi-platform journalist in Manila. She graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2016 with a degree in Communication and a minor in Creative Writing. Her poetry has been published in Kritika Kultura
, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
. She hails from Zamboanga City.