Janice Mirikitani


Why is Preparing Fish a Political Act?

Preparing fish
Each Oshogatsu*
I buy a gleaming rock cod,
pink, immaculately gutted.
Each year, a respectable fish
that does not satisfy
(hard as I try)
to capture flavors
once tasted.

Grandmother's hands
washing, scaling, cleaning
her fish,
saved each part,
guts, eggs, head.
Her knife, rusted
at the handle screws
ancient as her curled fingers.
Her pot, dented,
darkened, mottled with age
boiled her brew
of shoyu
sweetened with ginger and
herbs she grew
steamed with blood, water.
Nothing wasted.

           Someone once tried to sell her
           a set of aluminum
           pots, smiling too much, called her

           Her silence thicker than
           steaming shoyu,
           whiter than sliced bamboo root
           boiled with fish heads.

Preparing fish
is a political act.