My wok is black and smooth,
with handles made of polished wood;
my favorite gift from Mom and Dad
for me to use at college.

The scent of sautéed onions
always wafted from my father’s pan
as my mother played piano,
but they stayed home when I left.

Sometimes I find an excuse
to sauté onions and think of Dad.
Or I’ll play music and feel as though
my mother’s in the room with me.
But…
the food and the music
are all unique to me.

Chicken curry with coconut milk
that I learned to make in India, not from Dad.
Rap accompanied by my brother’s ukulele;
Mom wouldn’t even know where to start.

My wok is what made the real difference to me,
as I looked down and realized
that this is my own cookware,
and I pay my own rent.

There was comfort in the old house rules,
no longer enforced.
But there is freedom in my ownership
not just of my wok, but of my fate.
Halloween with roommates.
Thanksgiving with my ex.
No one tells me where I should go.
No one tells me who I should be.

But sautéed onions and piano hymns
are there to greet my wok and I

When we go home for Christmas.

– Joseph Aldridge, 2016

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