Recipe: Dak-dori-tang


Splay the hen on the cutting board's
yellowed face. With a well-loved blade
caress the goosed skin off, and most of the fat
leave just enough to render
and coat the bottom of the pot. Now in goes
rough cuts of carrot, onion, potatoes,
now ginger and garlic ground to pungent pith.
Cover it all with water and red pepper flakes
wait for it all to thicken, inelegant
as most good food is.

Halmoni still calls this dish Dak-dori-tang,
though the name is outdated,
translates roughly into chicken-chicken stew,
dak meaning chicken in Korean, dori derived from
the Japanese: tori, bird. Other words still confuse her:
tamanegi for yangpa, ninjin for dangun,
as if to remind me how close we came
to erasure. 

While my town was occupied
I watched a soldier cave a man’s face with a knee
for refusing to give up his mother tongue.
The soldier's expression gave away nothing.
When I was bad, mother said
the Japanese would come and get me.
I didn't fear demons
in dark corners of our room,
only other Asian faces.

Halmoni reaches into the bowl
to claim the throat.
The spine curved down as if slain
in a moment of prayer.

Soon it's laid bare,
just sinew and ridged bone.
Chili studded, stained red,
she licks her fingers clean.