Washing the Wok

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Washing the Wok

Washing the Wok

After cooking, there is dishwashing, a chore rife with memory in this poem by David Hassler.

"Washing the Wok" by David Hassler

This morning I wash the wok
then boil coffee with Guatemalan beans
I buy each week, weighed exactly on scales.
Outside the sun has evaporated
last night’s bright puddles of neon.
Steam settles in cool beads on the window.

It’s not enough to remember
how she left dinner early
and I followed her, how I held
a washcloth to cool her fever
and later washed the dishes, thinking
if only I could make them clean …
All summer she forgave me the peas
on my plate I would not finish.

I have counted the years, all the seasons
we ate together, against the hours
I scoured pots in the kitchen after she died.
I’ve learned to cook with woks,
to watch their drama as though they might
tell me something, and later to clean,
my hands in hot water—
I have not finished my grief. 

"Washing the Wok” by David Hassler, from Sabishi: Poems from Japan. Kent State University Press, 1994. Used with permission of the author.

David Hassler is an award-winning author and poet and the Director of Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University. He recently gave a local TEDx talk on poetry and community, entitled “Giving Voice: The Conversation of Poetry.”