Mama’s Cookin



She cooked dinner every night
didn’t matter if she was working
she was always working
but there was still dinner on the stove
most nights, I never even saw her preparing it
she was swift in her care for us
in a way that gave honor to invisibility
in a way that showed absence as remarkable
maybe it was then that I permitted myself to be present
because presence perceived isn’t the same as just being there

it was how mama loved us
it is how I love on my babies now
words fail
sometimes wrapped in obscurity
but if you walk into a home
that smells of hot water, cornbread, and sun tea
all of your worries fall away
they have no place amongst the collard greens
get your elbows off the table
sit up straight
finish all of your food
even when you are full
even if you have no desire to be full
even if you don’t like what is being served
eat it any way
because mama made sure we never went hungry
and there is honor in that

my table looks a little different
I cook every night
but we migrate to the living room
the kitchen is a makeshift office
my feet planted in front of the stove
wanting to run
but they are planted
and I’m still waiting for the crops

I listen to the rambling of the children as I stir the rice
hearing mama say, “don’t stir the rice; let it sit”
and I can’t help but wonder
how long I’ve been sitting
contemplating change
accepting these meals
these moments as tradition
not stirring the pot…of rice

-Jasmine Shari