The one thing they taught me was never to waste.
This is brain food, they said, as my mother set down safe,
modest dishes. Circled them around the single,
silver pomfret, whiskered catfish,
sole, black bass or snow white cod.

They did this every night, laying the delicate
meat across my rice, all still sighing hot breaths
from the stove. We lingered on, circled
those sleek bones after the other plates were bare,
drawing out minute, jewelled slivers. Picking at hidden corners:

The fish’s nape, left to the very end.
My too-short skirt. Upstairs’ constant rowing.
The bitter, bitter stomach. Math grades, the unending
heat, a cousin gone bad. Scraps, bits,
morsels that needed careful picking.

By Lee Jing-Jing

Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 9 No. 1 Jan 2010

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