Late Quarantine Thoughts on Vietnamese Cold Noodles and Grilled Pork Patties

by Terry Kirts

How can I make a salad without my hands?
I try with gloves, but the noodles skid
against the rubber, the mint bruises
where I pluck it from its stem. Cilantro
blackens, frail devil, out of spite. I might as

well bare skin to the guest who has breathed
in my kitchen, spit toothpaste in my sink.
Who among us isn’t doomed? Lime and fish
sauce sting my knuckles, reminding me
I’m permeable, I’m cut, that blood, too,

seasons the dressing. Thus a simple supper
on a cool May night feeds the heart its iron,
its hyssop. Could we, like kings and tsars,
have tasters to take the noble fall
for our enemies’ venom? Still, we sigh

at sharp flavors of shallot and grill smoke,
knowing there are greater joys than long living.
Aren’t all meals prepared with love
also tinged with inescapable risk? We each
wash our own plates, as if it keeps us safe.

Terry Kirts is the author of To the Refrigerator Gods, published in the Editor’s Choice series in poetry by Seven Kitchen’s Press in 2010. He is a senior lecturer in creative writing at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. His poetry and essays have appeared in such journals as Third Coast, Gastronomica, Alimentum, Sycamore Review, Green Mountains ReviewTaco Bell Quarterly, Presence, and Another Chicago Magazine, as well as the anthologies Food Poems and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana. His culinary articles and restaurant reviews have appeared widely, and he is currently a dining critic for Indianapolis MonthlyRalph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

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