Day 256 – chef masters

Friday, May 14, 2010
Day 256
11:20 pm

chef masters

what are you doing in my kitchen?
he asked
don’t you know this is where i come to chop
all day long

all day long?
she asked right back
why would you stay in a room
all day long
all by yourself
chopping vegetables,
her fists on her hips

my dear child,
it is best to be away from you

be away from me!?
she was now furious

it is the best way to be
away from you

are a mystery child,
not like an accident,
but an odd occurrence I was unprepared for,
not that I did not want you,
but I did not want you,
at least not at first,
not even when you were born,
not even until right now in fact,
and only now are you sort of okay to
want to have
because I see that
you want my attention for more than
what I put on your plate everyday,
and that,
I like and appreciate,
but I, too, am a mystery
and do not know how to give
you any kind of good attention
beyond the sixty seconds it takes me
to tell you to wash your hands
to tell you to come and sit at the table
to take your napkin and put it on your lap
to drink water while you eat what today I have made
to take your time and properly masticate
to smell your food while you eat it
to enjoy it
to sit with it
to finish every bit of it
to drink some more water
to go now, go and leave the table
wash your plate, and wash your hands again
that, since this is all I know how to say
in any good way that I am aware of
that is all I will say
and someday you will learn to
thank me for saying nothing more
than for what I put at your plate

it is best to be away from you
if I am to feed you anything worth eating

now good day, child
leave me alone



About traciakemi

traci akemi kato-kiriyama - inter/multi-disciplinary theatre/performance artist, arts educator, cultural worker, community organizer. Tuesday Night Project; theatre, performance, writing, and teaching projects with many organizations and artists including: zero 3; Edge of The World for Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia and the National Asian American Theatre Festival in New York; "PULL" with Kennedy Kabasares in San Francisco; Nobuko Miyamoto and Great Leap Collaboratory I; TeAda; NCRR; Oymun's 11. Playwright for "Chasing Dad - a performance of a reading about a play i'm writing" presented by Inside the Ford for the Ford's Summer Playwright series. View all posts by traciakemi

6 responses to “Day 256 – chef masters

  • awesomepie

    Traci! Prepare yourself! I have come for your poetry!

    I think, when I first read this, I was confused about the gender of each speaker. This was probably due to this stanza:
    “why would you stay in a room,
    all day long,
    all by yourself,
    chopping vegetables,
    her fists on her hips”
    This appears to be describing the male chef but then the last line includes a description of the female. This confused me on the first read-through, since “her fists on her hips” looks like it could only be modifying “chopping vegetables” as it is written.

    I am also hung up on the word “you,” with the comma. I’m not sure if I like this or not. It seems to be enough that the word “you” has its own line and stands out in this way. I’m not sure if it needs that extra comma or not, though the grammar inconsistency does make the word unique within the poem.

    That being said, I love how immediately blunt this poem is, particularly the part about the master chef not wanting the child when she was born, or even until right now. This is a masterful stroke, since it makes one wonder what is so important about this moment? And then you follow it up with this:
    “and only now are you sort of okay to
    want to have”
    Ha! It’s like a one-two dramatic combo followed by a humorous uppercut! That’s my favorite line in the story. It gives some levity to what I see as a heart-to-heart with a father who does not know how to show love other than by cooking and a daughter who feels neglected.

    Now that I think about it, though, “to take your time and properly masticate” seems like a mouthful (no pun intended… okay, maybe a little). “Masticate” is a bit of a complicated word for a poem that had used such simple language before. So, I kind of tripped over it a little.

    However, I was deeply satisfied by the end of this poem. It started off with my wondering where it was head and it ended by making me a little happy and sad all at once. “it is best to be away from you / if I am to feed you anything worth eating” really stuck out as the couplet that summarized everything the master chef was trying to say to this young woman. Congratulations, Traci. This is a poem worth its salt for sure! I will bow out and leave you in peace today.

  • traciakemi

    points well taken…i wasn’t sure about that comma either – wanted to emphasize it at the time of placing it on its own line, just removed it.

    and i always wonder how people are going to follow if they just follow from the beginning and see the hint with the “?”

    wanting to experiment with the use of spacing instead of using quotation marks, i decided to see how it might work if i take out the initial space between the first 2 sets of stanzas…hmm.. 😉

  • vicky_luu

    this poem makes me sad, but in a good way.

    i find it very dark, actually. not sure if that was your intention. but it sort of creeps up on you. like you’re reading along and it seems like just a conversation between a stern father and his child, but then there’s these lines like:
    “not that I did not want you,
    but I did not want you,”

    and i say to myself, ouch, the truth hurts. but that’s the great thing about this piece, it just feels very truthful.

    you mentioned above that you were experimenting with spacing, instead of using quotation marks, which i think is fun and something i’ve done also. i don’t necessarily think quotation marks would be any less or more affective in this kind of piece.

    i wonder if the formatting of the piece was intentional? like how in the beginning it’s more spaced out and then there is a second half that is all clumped together. it made me read the second half a little faster, as if with more urgency, but i wonder what it would do for the piece to break that section up, too?

    anyway, i like, a lot.

  • awesomepie

    I think the problem with me, at least, wasn’t that I couldn’t tell if there were quotes in the poem. Rather, I had trouble telling where that particular quote in stanza 2 ended at “chopping vegetables.” Maybe putting “she asked right back” in closer proximity with “her fists on her hips” or vice versa?

    Hmm. It’s a conundrum! 😉

  • edrensumagaysay

    There was a few things than ran through my head while reading this poem.

    At first, I thought it was about two humans. A mother type and a child type. Btu the child was kind of rebellious. And their relationship seemed contentious.

    And then, when I got here:

    are a mystery child,
    not like an accident,”

    I started thinking it was a human talking to food. Or something inanimate like that. Still wasn’t sure who the two characters were. Then, it seemed to me, their relationship seemed like a brother and sister type relationship. Kind of like where they HAVE to like each other because they’re connected in a way where they don’t have control.

    The, when I got here, I started thinking again, it was two humans:

    “it is best to be away from you
    if I am to feed you anything worth eating”

    When I got to the end, the relationship, it seemed to me, had reverted back to a contentious one.

    For the kind of reader I am, one who wants to figure out what the piece means, I was left as confused as I was when I began. I don’t know if this was intentional or if I just missed the point entirely. Regardless, this poem is doused in ambiguity. Which, may or may not be good, depending on your point and intention for writing it.

    I automatically found myself in a kitchen. Surrounded by counter tops and chopping blocks and bowls of food, food, food! Someone was in a kitchen cooking something. Because the tension between the characters, I smelled a bit of bitterness, a vinegar and and salt feel. Which isn’t that sad really. But more of a bite to the room, if any of that makes any sense to you. What I’m trying to say is that there was a visual for me, and a smell, and a taste to the piece. Which is good!

    For something like words, the way a writer puts them together, and if other senses are evoked, that must mean the writer picked an appropriate combination of words for the reader to “feel” something. I got that with this piece.

    Now in terms of improvement, I guess it depends on what you intended with this piece. If you wanted the characters to be clear, then that didn’t happen for me. I still don’t know if both are human, if both are the same gender, or if both are vegetables. However, if you want to keep their identities ambiguous as a literary device, then maybe a tiny bit of more establishing who is who.

    Other than getting a feeling that both characters are somewhat irate at each other for being with each other, I wonder if there is more to the poem. I was going to say, maybe talk about food more, but on second inspection, it seems the ACT of eating is more relevant to their relationship.

    This could be a poem that is simply a snapshot into the lives of two characters an nothing more. I like pieces like that.

    The grammar – the commas and the exclamation points didn’t bother me really. When it comes to poems, I almost don’t see them.

    I think that’s it. Good job so far, Traci. Good job indeed.

    You’ve just been Featherton-ed. You got a couple more on their way today.

    Cheers, my friend.

  • fivethirty

    caveat: i did not read the other comments; i may repeat some things already said, maybe not.

    stanzas. the speakers are separated by them in the beginning, but i lost the flow toward the middle to the end where it seemed it was the same subject speaking. there may be a more effective way of communicating voices.

    the cook. may be completely honest, and exactly who they are. then again. as a parent, i might suggest that:

    “someday you will learn to
    thank me for saying nothing more
    than for what I put at your plate”

    might also be translated as, “someday i might learn how to better express what i’d never had a model to, but for now this is the best i can do; perhaps we can learn from each other.”

    but that’s my take. which means this poem made me think. which is good. that the narrator has an idea of a someday different, however, leads me to believe that they understand a limitation exists – which is also illustrated in the poem – which leads me to further believe there is more to them than a one-way “i know best, so leave me alone and you’ll thank me later.” i don’t get the feeling that this subject can even thank themselves, but do get the feeling they understand this.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: