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Poetry readings from this year's poetry contest winners


Notes from Our Chef

by Rajeev Rajendran

Move fast, stay sharp. If it's not sharp, it's not a knife.
Be attentive to guests. Be interested, be loving, be generous in all things,
to each other and to them. The answer is yes.
The work we are doing is sacred. This food has come to us through God,
and we will serve it as his hands and feet. Wash your hands frequently
and wear closed-toed nonslip shoes. Be patient. A great meal is a spiritual experience.
You are empowered now as an extension of me to have a sense of ownership.
Own this, the words that you say and your every action. These ships that are blown
by strong winds are driven by small rudders, so watch your touch
that you don't put a single hand onto a plate in anger. And above all,
watch your tongues. Your tongue becomes your eyes when we lose our sight,
but it moves as a deadly weapon—more poisonous than the serpent's tooth. Control it.
It does not control you. Beloved, not many of you should become chefs
because you know that we who teach shall be judged more harshly.
But I am with you in this. Do as I would do. You are empowered
to give what you need to give and say what you need to say
to make their experience positive. They are not customers, they are our guests.
They are not your guests, they are your family. Your self and the hand that feeds you,
nearer than sight when your own family leaves you. They will come back and be here
believing when you are tired, because you'll forget as you feed from this every day,
how good this is, but they won't, because it is. It tastes good to them,
it tastes good to them, you can tell by the way they give themselves to it,
it is that good, down to the base chemistry.
We are alchemists working through generations of history.
Learn the recipes.

How to See a Ghost

by Ashley Memory

Don't read up on the occult and
linger around those reputedly haunted places
expecting to hear the whispers of soldiers
planning an ambush or the
cries of women mourning their dead children
and the creak of those old rocking chairs.

Don't ask the docent at those houses
if she has ever heard strange noises.
Either she has or she hasn't but she
probably won't tell you.
Instead she'll look away with annoyance ...
Thinking you're just one of those people.

If you really want to see a ghost,
do none of those things.
Do nothing.
Nothing at all.

Be like two ordinary people, God-fearing, practical people
with no interest in the supernatural whatsoever
who, while driving home one night
along a road they had traveled hundreds of times,
passed through a white mist
with a sad little face.

Although they did not believe in such things
they instantly knew it was a ghost
because when they drove on,
for a split second the sadness was with them in the car
filling up the void between them.

The ghost didn't cackle,
it had no message.
And just as suddenly,
it was gone.

I'll tell you something else
because I know you'll ask.
It was the clearest of nights, no rain, no fog,
no crows and no owls circled overhead.
There wasn't even a full moon.
There was nothing special about it at all.


by Jeffrey Pineda

This is not a recipe,
this is meant to be a poem.

It starts with a coconut scraper,
primitive in its shape and function.
A star used to carve into flesh.

The coconut's yield is taken up
with both hands by a mother,
an older sister and folded into rice flour.

Later a small bite is held out to a child.
With hesitation, the offering is accepted.
And this cake begins to carve out a memory.

This is not supposed to be sentimental.
Never intending to be a bridge, across so much water,
linking something distance, foreign.

But as crumbs fall on the plate,
you cannot help noticing a string of islands.
Calling out to you across an ocean, across a simple cake.

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