Week 42: Bei Jie Si

 

開門七件事

The Seven Necessities 

In a Chinese travel book from the year 1127, the author lists
the seven essential things for a Chinese household.


Firewood
(chái) 

A tree spent her whole life
growing. 

A tree gave me all her
rings 

that I might know warmth. 

Did you know
when you rub two limbs
together,
they burst into brilliance? 

This is how I imagine
love to be. 

My agong was cremated—
all his life ending with flame
that I might know warmth
in the thickest of fog.


Rice
(mĭ) 

And what is life
without a bowl of good food? 

Rice has taught me
that even the smallest grain
in abundance
makes you whole again.


Oil
(yóu) 

How much oil does
a body produce? 

Enough to illuminate
a lantern. 

How much oil did
your ancestors produce? 

Enough for an entire
festival of light. 


Salt
(yán) 

My ancestors
are teaching me
how to cook. 

“If nothing else,
tears make
excellent
seasoning.”
 


Sauce
(jiàng)

“Is sauce
A necessity?”
I ask. 

“Sometimes
you will not want
to nourish
your body.
 

You will
regard your body
with bitterness and
stop caring for it.

Flavor helps
you eat
what you need to
so that you may
become strong.”
 


Vinegar
(cù) 

If you leave
rice to ferment
it will turn to vinegar. 

How lovely that
even in death
the growth of
this earth
Flavors our food. 


Tea
(chá) 

At the end
of the day
I sit on
the couch
with a shining body
and a meal
in my lap. 

Agong
and all his mothers
before him
cremate themselves
to warm me
a cup of tea

that I might
know warmth
in the thickest
of fog.

 
 

BEI JIE SI is a poet and artist in Austin, Texas. Jie Si has been involved with the UT Spitshine CUPSI team from 2015-2019 as both a competitor and coach. She is Co-President of the only poetry organization on UT’s campus (Spitshine Poetry) where she led workshops and organizes open mics. She was a 2017 Write Bloody Contest finalist, a Pink Door fellow, a poetry reader for Bat City Review, a Writing Advisor for Barrio Writers, and has been published in VinylNat. BrutBird’s ThumbKweli Journal, and Monstering Magazine. She spends her time writing, studying, drawing, singing, and eating.