Melody S. Gee

Even celery slices and chicken cubes
for the sake of even cooking time.
The bias cut looks elegant and sautés

faster. The quarter steer is readied
for carryout. Fillet until thumb-sized.
A guest must cut nothing for himself.

Measure oil in ladles, salt in palms.
A slide of sugar tames the bitter.
Only balance will sate. If you crave
the meal was lopsided.

The eye and hand flavor precisely,
but into the cartons dishes must
overflow. Fill rice over the lip.
A strained seal says, see how much

was poured out for you.
Three chunks of pineapple
and a scattering of sesame seeds

is all the gloss a sweet and sour
pork carton will need.
The meat is fried twice after closing,
in lard rendered from silk

to blistering. Near dawn,
my mother peels back thin socks
altered to arm bands, weeding
her burns of polyester threads.

Your dish is scooped from seven
different buckets of evenly diced
and coded parts. You watch

the muscle memory of women
with ossified tongues and unbound feet.
Their noontime chant: fill, fill, fill.

The door opens and a bell calls out
hunger, vespers, holy hour.
Decades of automation lift the hands
that offer you and receive you.

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