Auditory Cortex / April 2018 (Issue 39)


by Amrita Brahmo

smells of five-spice powder
in my grandmother's Bengali kitchen
It makes my eyes water every time
I throw together ingredients
into the crackling mustard oil
and shut the lid, hoping that,
in time, they will have transformed
into a masterpiece worthy
of her inheritance.

tastes like the fourth spoon
my father dips into the fish curry
after licking it off the first three,
not because there was anything amiss
but, simply, because he wants to revel
in the flavour, just a little longer.
He says food is a labour of love-
there should always be enough second helpings.

is the pallor of slivered almonds
that Mother heaps upon my kheer
(because I won't eat it any other way)
In my land, almonds, not rosemary,
stand for remembrance and she always
adds a little more, just to make sure that
some day, floundering amidst alien tongues,
I remember precisely how many parts tradition
I need to blend with a dash of experiment
to recreate the taste of home.

 Third Prize Co-Winner:
"Nostalgia" by Amrita Brahmo (India)

Lian-Hee Wee's commentary: Beauty is found often in the humblest things in life. The elegance typical Indian art is portrayed in this poem with the humility and love that pervades home cooking. As un-noteworthy as second helpings are to those who enjoy them, when seen from the perspective of the person who ensures its availability, one suddenly smells and tastes all the cultural associations of the five-spice powder, the almonds, the mustard oil as one hears their crackling sounds under the closed lid, even when one is not in India, even when one is not Indian. Listening to this poem is best in a lazy afternoon, when one finds mental space, even if preoccupied but numbed by dread of work, for longing a little time with those who enabled us to soar from our childhood home. [Read other Auditory Cortex poems.]

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