Making Phở – A Poem

She will rise at 5 AM

Finding the ingredients

Laid out on the kitchen counter

Ready for her attention

The bones are gently placed in the pot

The water covers the bones like a flood engulfing islands

The sachet of spices soaks in the stove top hot tub 

Bobbing in circles as it imparts its essential essence

The ginger sizzles with an aromatic burn 

Quickly extinguished as it splashes next to the star anise and daikon radish

The fire is lowered and the waiting begins.

She will watch the sun rise

Remembering your journey

From little boy to grown man

Imagining your journey

From your house to her home.

She will soak the rice noodles when the sun starts to slide

And cut the meat, paper thin

Wincing when the knife gets too close to her fingertips

Two types of onions, chopped, give her an excuse 

To second guess how she has raised you.

Before the moon rises, she will prepare the table

Chopsticks on white napkins

Large bowls filled with 

Softened rice noodles

Raw beef sliced paper thin 

Onions – two kinds.

And when the doorbell rings

And your deep voice reverberates in her womb

She’ll ladle the broth

Steaming with spices

Warmed with ginger

Hearty with marrow

And serve you a bowl

Of her love.

Image credit:

Pisauikan@ Pixabay 

( For the visually challenged

reader, the image shows an

old woman whose face is

deeply lined. There is a faint

smile on her face)

This is a late entry for Sadje’s What Do You See #52. This prompt marks the one year anniversary of Sadje’s What Do You See. Despite the lateness, I wanted to to acknowledge the inspiration Sadje gifts us with her weekly picture prompt. Her observations of “what she saw” over the course of this year are spot on! Thank you, Sadje for stretching our imaginations and sharing our interpretations!

I was also able to include Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #249 – Rise. I’m sure he has a really good excuse for being MIA for month but all that matters is that I’m still on my streak!!

This poem was inspired by my husband’s mom. No, she doesn’t look like the picture of the old Asian woman from Sadje’s prompt. My mother-in-law actually looks quite younger than her almost 70 years on this earth – her skin is smooth, unblemished and her hair retains its thick curls (natural) and black color (bottled). She does wake up at 5 AM to start cooking phở when she knows we will be visiting. It usually takes us 8-10 hours to get to my husband’s hometown and the broth she makes is the first thing we smell when they open the door. Good phở cannot be rushed (believe me, I’ve tried!) and my mother-in-law’s recipe is the best!

My husband is the first of four boys. His brothers are scattered across the United States – we are the second closest to his parents. I remember the first time I visited my husband’s parents in their home – I was really nervous but my mother-in-law made me feel welcomed and promised to share her recipes with me if I married her son. She served phở to us that winter day and ever since then, anytime we would return to my husband’s childhood home, phở is the first meal we would have.

I have often wondered what she thought of the women who came to take her boys far from home. Does she feel replaced? Does she worry if they are taking care of her sons in the same way that she took care of them? Does she enjoy the quiet of the house? Does she miss cleaning up after them? Does she wish they lived closer and visited more often?

I haven’t asked her these questions, but when I think about my own answers to these questions, and think about my kids who aren’t even dating yet being far away from me, my eyes start behaving like I’m chopping onions and I start to think of how I can serve them love in a bowl.

©️ 2020 iido