Hotpot for the Hungry Daughters

by Sammi Yamashiro

I swore I would never return.
To the kitchen, I mean. Where my mother fed her cranky children
a preview of the meal to come. Why did I? Well, because

the spoon she used to feed me with, she lost.
Her pots and pans littered the floor, creating a landfill my height.
How could I ever reach the dining room table?
I will find a way.

With my makeshift wings, I fluttered out of her nest
and transcended, Paradise-bound. As in, Earth tossing
onto its back, sliding into a clean diaper made of clouds
so that my starved body could graze against the cotton-fattened surface.

I poked my tongue through the stringy fibers, flirting with the idea.
Afterlife. Eternity. Am I ready?

I could not
end my life on that note: key in minor, aged a minor, a minor
life? I refused. Plus, I could not arrive in the Land of the Reawakened
appearing deadened. So, I took on a mother’s role: zipped it on quite snug,

forcing a hug on myself. Self-love, as today’s people so call it.
The twenty-first century motto. Yet, I share this planet
with some others, those wounded by similar battles. So selfish it is,
to hog the cure all for myself. I spread my ration among them,
massaging the milky salve in the cracks between ligaments. All was right.
Then we celebrated

in the kitchen. A friend of mine sliced veggies into bite-sized pieces.
Was she waiting for my offer to help? No, she replied. I can do the work.

Truth is, no one can do the work. No one but myself. I could not bear
to just stare while someone else tackled the task. What if she gave up
midway, while we progressed toward famine? I could not risk that.

I arranged the table, at least, to provide myself a sense of security.
We dropped the ingredients in the rumbling bowl. Another friend asked
what I wanted. I thought I knew it then, with utmost surety.

Mandu. Enoki. Tteok. I thought if I spoke in one word sentences,
the words would become proper nouns. Transform from generic to specific,
important. My friend dropped the food in my bowl. I had a new wish—
to snatch the chopsticks from her grasp and get the food myself. Yet,
I held back.

In the midst, Linger by The Cranberries flooded the silent ambience,
each drum tap a smack on our backs since we could not burp ourselves.
Even while sitting, we could not keep balance— the floor swayed to the tempo,
Dolores’s hums a familiar sound. As I rested my head against the bend of the couch,

I mistook it for my mother’s shoulders— warm and worn from my body’s gravity,
but intact, despite it all.


Sammi Yamashiro is an Okinawan and Black-American poet and the author of The Peach Pit Mask. Her poems have appeared in Wild Roof Journal, Free Verse Revolution, Sunday Mornings at the River, Revolution Publication, and others. Visit her website at for literary updates and more.

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