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When I would come home from school,
She would look at me and ask,
(In Farsi, a language I had never learned to speak),
What I wanted for lunch.
For an answer I would just smile,
And nod my head.
I would say.
And then I would go and sit on the sofa and watch television while she cooked.
Sometimes a half an hour later,
She would emerge from the kitchen with a plate:
If she had made me a hamburger,
It was the largest hamburger the world had ever seen,
The meat patty the size of the plate itself,
And sliced into two halves,
Each of them needing two slices of bread to cover the meat.
On the days when she made fish,
It was a salmon the size of a dolphin,
Its eyes wide open,
As if it too couldn’t believe that she thought I could eat the entire thing.
They’d be as long as your legs,
As thick as your thumbs,
And there’d be 80 or 100 of them,
Piled so high that they looked like their own, unhealthy food pyramid.
She’d bring an entire watermelon to the table,
Slice it open,
And hand me a fork.
The same with a cantaloupe.
At the time I thought she was worried that I was too skinny,
Or that the head nod, in Iranian culture,
“Give me the largest of everything.”
But now I realize she wasn’t feeding me for the day,
But for the rest of my life,
That those two months of meals were going to have to last me forever,
And that she wanted the taste of those burgers,
And those magical, outsized watermelons and cantaloupes,
To stay with me long after she had gone back to Shiraz,
Long after her temporary travel visa expired,
Long after she had become too old to board a plane and fly halfway across the world
To see us.
A full belly, after all, means “love” in any language.
Copyright 2017 Kareem Tayyar
Kareem Tayyar is an Iranian-American poet who lives in California. His most recent book is Magic Carpet Poems.
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