김장

                              —during which we prepare large quantities of kimchi for winter

When my aunt migrated stateside in 1972,
her mother sent with her only blood and kimchi starter.
Gomo repurposed a bleached bathtub because kimchi cleanses body.
Old tongues tire fluently and the new remain unseasoned.

I implore gomo, how do we ferment family?
But there is no written recipe, no measuring cups or spoons, just empty palms.
We remember through simile and psalm, tasting as we go.
We chop everything by hand. Unpracticed, they cramp
                                                                                                   like mimosa plants.

When I ask her the brine’s salt to water ratio,
she says, It should taste like ocean in autumn.
I can’t tell if this saltiness is from seawater or my fingers.
We recreate depths in Rubbermaid.

We are hawks spread over kitchen floor,
old newspapers, mostly ads now, catching intentioned chaos.
Mother, brother, aunts, and cousins
stuffing jars of old country for uncut chopsticks.

I’m always asking for written recipes, step-by-step instructions,
but the recipe is in doing.
Absorbing the color of how each step tastes, knowing how it will grow.
Though, one never really knows. Flavors learned on honing scars of knives,

in immense clanging bowls holding summer through winter.
This batch must nourish us until we can taste on our own,
with spice sufficiently paralyzing diaspora, if only for a moment.
How easily we take Spam fried rice and kimchi for granted,
                                                                                                    how nourishing the nostalgia.

I’ve been waiting for magpie chatter at my door,
but only the perpetually unfortunate wait for others to bring luck.
I taste each phase of kimchi, the flavors fresh
and naïve. I pack each jar to brim and forget winter.

— Eddie Kim (from Heavy Feather Review)