Five minutes passed

since he stopped screaming, and she,

crying. Smell of burnt rice was her cue

to run into the kitchen and eat her last words

along the way. She turned off the stove,

lifted the lid of eggplant stew

and felt the steam, a hot slap

across her face. He swallowed his pride

and helped her set the table. Lunch time,

he mumbled. I heard the safe word

and peeked out of my room, like a prisoner,

exonerated for at least part of the day.

There was nothing like the marrying aroma of turmeric

and saffron on a lazy Sunday. We sat around the table

and savored every bite. Shared a few smiles

here and there. He served the rice,

and she passed the salt, as if nothing was wrong.

There was no fighting at mealtime.

That was the unwritten treaty, passed on

from generation to generation.

Then he took his last bite and she,

her last sip. Dirty dishes stacked up in the sink,

like a pile of resentment, waiting to be claimed.

And I held on to my spoon for as long as I could.

—Shakiba Hashemi (The Indianapolis Review)