asian supermarkets (Dina Klarisse)

supermarket trips
oriental’s not PC
asian groceries

frozen mung bean sprouts
my kuya and i, still young
stuck them to our necks

held spikey jackfruits
to see who would last longest
dad looking for shrimp

smell of fish wafting
mixing with fruity jellies
years later, comfort

i head back to mckee supermarket although somehow in my memories it was always mckee
oriental. is this a mandela effect

the sign has three languages on it, beckoning to viet chinese filipino dads and moms kids in tow, promises of mcdonalds just on the other side of the plaza.

dad and grandpa shopped and cooked sunday lunch, the hours between cartoons and prepping for church

grandpa loved seedless grapes although they made him cough
there was something about picking good fruit that made him smile
when we tasted green grapes and their watery crunch, not too giving
but not too firm. he said they were like his menthols, addicting
but catching in his throat, coughing a smoker’s cough,
hacking out little green skin. taking another handful

when we were very little my kuya nearest to my age came along
and we challenged each other to hold frozen goods to our necks, in our palms
imported young coconut and sweet black bean, suspended molecules
our skin stinging first then turning numb. dad yelling from the end of the aisle
close to the fish, for us to stop melting the merchandise.

the fish tanks murky, men in heavy aprons with heavy knives stood behind them
while dad and grandpa chose the fattest to cook. still living until they weren’t
the heavy metal’s blunt force, then sharp sliver into scale and flesh
later to be simmered in tamarind, tomato, chili
served over fluffy white rice.

sometimes i timed it wrong and had no time to shower between lunch and church
and so i would sit in a sunday’s best, smelling of our ulam: fresh fish
chosen by dad and grandpa, boiled garlic onion tomato, sour and tangy broth
i sang to jesus tasting sinigang, wondering if he knew the taste
of lingcod and tamarind and a little mango jelly to go after
down the hatch, with the flesh of our lord

my grandma said not to eat before church
because jesus didn’t want to share space in my belly
swimming with the tamarind soaked fish and artificial mango
but i dont think he minded it in there, after all i washed it down
with a swig of his own blood, watered down

i dont go to church anymore, but every asian supermarket
beckons to me. every imported fruit and aisles of dried noodles
and dehydrated mushrooms and cans of fermented everything
like a prayer like a psalm.


Dina Klarisse is a writer/poet living in the Bay Area. She writes about the Filipino-American immigrant experience and being a recovering Catholic, and because she’s not very good at much else. Her work has been published in ASU’s Canyon Voices, Marias at Sampaguitas, The Daily Drunk Mag, and Emerging Arts Professions SFBA. More of her writing can be found on her Instagram @hella_going and blog


image: Alan Tenhoeve