Your grandmother has never seen a silkmoth. My cheeks fill with fried pupae as she digs into the metal tin. An unctuous mist keeps us close & shivering on the rooftop. Neither of us can sleep. When silkworms change, they burrow out of the cocoon & this spoils the silk. Upends her hand. Steam hisses out from the broad & ribbed bodies swept up in bubbling oil. Factories dump them into boiling water. So they can't leave. So they stay in between. We share a whiskey that coils my head stiff. Once I read a vegan cookbook to be closer to vegetables, but my mother threw it away, my mother who said grow up & be the kind of person who eats meat every day. Remember our last meal together? Almost a year to the date. We sat in your late uncle's house, around a large, round table, as your grandmother spun dish after dish. Clams with black bean sauce, crab & pork, chicken feet. Upon hearing I’d never had passionfruit, she called to the kitchen. Cut it in halves. We shared in silence. I can’t remember the taste, only that in the eating, I forgot where I was. & I was somewhere else completely when your uncle took my head in his hands, kissed both my cheeks.
In the taxi back to your parent's, you whispered everyone else knew it was a mangosteen. The amaranthine mist dampens the weaker flame. The tin of silkworm, almost empty. The fate of almost all of their kind. Unable to fly for generations. I'll never tell your grandmother. This morning, she held an urn of her eldest son. This is not the ancestral order of ashes. There is no lasting equation to anything: always shrinking, the space what flowers & what is unfading. She draws me closer, not wanting to cook away those last days of soft mush & bitterness. We share, without joy or savor, these interrupted, unresolved transformations.
Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, and a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013), a contributor to The Conversant, and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in POETRY, TheAmerican Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, Hunger Mountain, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog. Find her at 7TrainLove.org.