Maker of Pho
All morning I watched you work,
more focused than a Tibetan monk
bent over a sand Mandela,
slicing onions into thin half moons
gently guiding them into red wine vinegar,
blackening ginger root over guttering blue flame
releasing its essence, trimming
scallions, bean sprouts, carrots, carving
flank steak into thin transparent slices,
prepping nouc mam, squeezing fresh lime
into dark brown fish sauce, transforming it
to deep red, adding water, chili pepper, sugar,
skimming fat from the surface of the broth
for hours, until it is clear and light as air,
adding rice noodles, anise stars, cinnamon sticks,
fragrance of spices filling the kitchen,
and then, while serving,
adding thin slices of beef
which cook as we look on.
So quickly it is gone.
We stare at our empty bowls.
Your Mandela, so carefully
crafted, has served its purpose.
I confess, I hope you will begin again,
soon. Very soon.