by Shizhou Yang
I sent a spoonful of the fire-hued soup—
Or should I call it stew—
In my mouth
A sour sweet sensation of the “West”
That my tomato-growing Chinese parents
To their days of their passing
Ten years apart from each other
Until they were joined again in a hill
Their tomb stone with a red cross
Overlooking a vast lake.
46 years ago
They gave me life
On this day
At the foot of Himalayas
With the help of a granny
They also gave me an earthly liking for tomato
That as a child, I would hold it in my palm
So big and succulent, fresh from our garden
And eat it raw
Sometimes with a sprinkle
Of white ground sugar, a rarity in the countryside
And won mouth-watering admiration from my cousins
I heard C. S. Lewis, a literary hero in my adult life, was also a tomato lover
Forgot if he mentioned tomato as part of his Surprised by Joy
Tomato soup, a dowry from my wife
Blended with avocado and oregano
Bread crumbs and black pepper
Invites my mind to revisit through my taste buds
My younger years of eating corn porridge
Except for its passionate lingering flavor
My tomato soup, the one I used to drink almost daily as a child,
Was a tranquil lake
In my plain ceramic bowl
—Slices of red its anchored boats
—Egg drops its wandering clouds
—Bits of green onion its welcoming islands
Did they ever set that prisoner free
The one who risked his life
Taking the first bite
Of this forbearing forbidden forgiving fruit?
If not, take counsel in the wise words of a poet I read this morning:
Be not disturbed.
All will be forgotten,
Bad deeds, and good.
Still, what would happen to my tomato soup or my wife’s tomato stew
Or your pizza
Or Grandma’s Lasagne
Without this poison of cutlery pleasure?
Will the Master of the heavenly banquet call it
To Mei Toe
To Ma Toe
Or xi hong shi (fruit of the West)
Or fan qie (fruit of the barbarians)?
Will it matter anymore?
The temptation will always be there:
Red and ready for longing hearts
With or without the word-twisting persuasion.
I sent the last spoonful of my wife’s tomato soup into my mouth
Munching it with cheese crackers and home-made bread.
I am full. And I am
Thankful to be still alive
As the youngest son of two tomato-growing parents
Relishing tomato soup from another land.