Chinese Poetry in Translation by Kenneth Rexroth

Winning Writers subscriber Wesley Willis recently discovered Kenneth Rexroth‘s translations of ancient Chinese poetry and was so enamored of them that he shared these poems with me. They’re taken from Rexroth’s anthology Love and the Turning Year: 100 More Poems from the Chinese (New Directions, 1970). I was moved by their meditative quality; each moment is simply observed, each feeling simply described, so that the reader naturally slows down and becomes immersed in the poet’s present experience. Read more selections on the Bureau of Public Secrets website.

by the Poetess Chu Shu Chen (late Sung Dynasty, 13th c.)

The white moon gleams through scudding
Clouds in the cold sky of the Ninth
Month. The white frost weighs down the
Leaves and the branches bend low
Over the freezing water.
All alone I sit by my
Window. The crushing burden
Of the passing days never
Grows lighter for an instant
I write poems, change and correct them,
And finally throw them away.
Gold crysanthemums wither
Along the balcony. Hard
Cries of migrating storks fall
Heavily from the icy sky.
All alone by my window
Hidden in my empty room,
All alone, I burn incense,
And dream in the smoke, all alone.


Amongst the Cliffs
by Han Yu (768-824 AD)

The path up the mountain is hard
to follow through the tumbled rocks.
When I reach the monastery
the bats are already flying.
I go to the guest room and sit
on the steps. The rain is over.
The banana leaves are broad.
The gardenias are in bloom.
The old guest master tells me
there are ancient paintings on the
walls. He goes and gets a light.
I see they are incomparably
beautiful. He spreads my bed
and sweeps the mat. He serves me
soup and rice. It is simple
food but nourishing. The night
goes on as I lie and listen
to the great peace. Insects chirp
and click in the stillness. The
pure moon rises over the ridge
and shines in my door. At daybreak
I get up alone. I saddle
my horse myself and go my way.
The trails are all washed out.
I go up and down, picking my
way through storm clouds on the mountain.
Red cliffs, green waterfalls, all
sparkle in the morning light.
I pass pines and oaks ten men
could not reach around. I cross
flooded streams. My bare feet stumble
on the cobbles. The water roars.
My clothes whip in the wind. This
is the only life where a man
can find happiness. Why do I
spend my days bridled like a horse
with a cruel bit in his mouth?
If I only had a few friends
who agreed with me we’d retire
to the mountains and stay till our lives end.

Peter Everwine: “Rain”

I love it when a work of literature captures a feeling of mine that is so specific yet so hard to name, particularly when it involves glimpses of the transcendent. I grew up in a more urban environment than the narrator of the poem below, so for me, that distinct blend of nostalgia, longing, and mystery often arose when I looked out of my apartment window at dusk, as the outlines of high-rises turned lavender and misty on the horizon.

The text below is reprinted by permission from American Life in Poetry , a project of The Poetry Foundation.

American Life in Poetry: Column 278


Peter Everwine is a California poet whose work I have admired for almost as long as I have been writing. Here he beautifully captures a quiet moment of reflection.


Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind.
Sixty years ago, lying beside my father,
half asleep, on a bed of pine boughs as rain
drummed against our tent, I heard
for the first time a loon’s sudden wail
drifting across that remote lake—
a loneliness like no other,
though what I heard as inconsolable
may have been only the sound of something
untamed and nameless
singing itself to the wilderness around it
and to us until we slept. And thinking of my father
and of good companions gone
into oblivion, I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by Peter Everwine, whose most recent book of poems is From the Meadow: Selected and New Poems, Pitt Poetry Series, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Reprinted from Ploughshares, Vol. 34, no. 1, Spring 2008, by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Nicole Nicholson: “Gulf Song”

Poets for Living Waters is a new online anthology of writings in response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico begun on April 20, 2010, one of the most profound human-made ecological catastrophes in history. This piece by Nicole Nicholson is reprinted by permission of the author. Read more of Nicole’s work at her website Raven’s Wing Poetry .

Gulf Song

There is an artery in the coastline, fingers spread,
bayou beckoning to the sea to come in
and travel up my arm. Gulf trajectories: seagulls
fly overhead, following the fringe of my
inland. The ocean climbs up inside my palm,
reuniting with river at the mouth of my life,
   which is
made out of little veins. Water: it is how
I live, how I came to you as a cloaked land
with veils of trees, wildflowers, and tribes
the backs of my hands, up my veins, into
   my breasts
and belly. My womb has seen
millions of red men and women exit,
hug close to earth and feel me breathe,
and call me home.

I have billions, trillions, a galaxy of creatures
living just beneath the whorl of fingerprints.
in my teeth, turtles in my jaw,
pelicans and people in my pulse.
At an intersection in my wrist of unoxidized
   blue and bone
there sits an egret, white with sorrow, white with
   the sea foam
that I baptize my forehead with. He is
oil christened, stained with brown, feathers
   slicked down. You birth
dead dinosaur bones from the trenches in
   my knees,
caverns in my colon, light your fires and
   call them
Viet Nam’s children, little tragedies lit
when my eyes grow dark each night.

Candles do not burn in the ocean,
and boats cannot swim in God’s acre.
   There is
a necropolis of expired lives, scaffolding
   and chasses
of iron and bone coughed up and vacant
   on the ocean floor. It will
lie beneath this shroud of oil that burns
   and congeals
within the reach of my fingers. Let the poison
travel up my arm, hope that venom can
   be sucked out
by a kindly mouth and a bittersweet
   tongue. My wrist
is still knitting itself together,
bone halves seeking solace with
   each other
after being shattered apart by a hurricane
   hammer. And there is

no prayer for this, except for the cry in
   your own throat,
except for the children of mine that you wash
   the oil off of
like they were your own babies,
except for the sickness like tar balls resting
in the hollow behind your navel,
except for the fire launched from the
  soft beds
of your own tongues. If you find that prayer,
say it for me. I will need it to survive.

Leslea Newman: “Poem for Two Dogs, Hanged in Salem, 1692”

Lesléa Newman is the author of more than 50 books for children and adults, including the poetry collection Nobody’s Mother (Orchard House Books, 2008). The poem below, reprinted by permission, won second runner-up for poetry in the 2010 Solstice Literary Contest . Read all the winners here .

Poem for Two Dogs, Hanged in Salem, 1692

Did they hang

their heads

as good dogs do

when someone

slips beside them

to loop

a collar

or a rope

around their furry necks

Did they prance

along proudly

as happy dogs do

when trotting

alongside a friend

or stranger

who’s taking them


for a nice long walk

Did they give

sloppy kisses

as loving dogs do

when a kind man

or gruff man


down beside them

and says sit

and stay

Did they shake

all over

as frightened dogs do

when startled by thunder

or lightning

or black hoods

placed over their heads

making everything too quiet

and dark

Did they swing

their tails

as innocent dogs do

when they’re puzzled

or confused

but still

trusting those near

will bring them

no harm

Or did they bare

their teeth

growl and leap

snapping at the Hangman

before he strung them up

and they rose

to Heaven

leaving bodies behind

to be buried like bones

David Woo: “Divine Fire”

Prizewinning poet David Woo and the editors of the Asian American Literary Review have kindly granted me permission to reprint Woo’s poem “Divine Fire” below. The poem’s formal cadences and intellectual vocabulary seem to hold up a corrective to the apocalypse-fervor that he finds so dangerously inadequate.

“How to be good if a caul covers the prospect of your faith?” he asks, getting to the core of our temptation to “create an image, any image,” whose rules are easier to understand than the truly mysterious God. Hating the world in the name of our imagined divinity, we wind up trapped in our own imaginings, vulnerable to the skeptics’ jibe that God is only a projection of human ideals or neuroses.

Read Woo’s thoughts on the genesis of this poem here .

Divine Fire

“No more apocalypses!” the fanatics never cry. Extinction
is bliss for those who resent human life. We mocked
the fizzle of New Year’s 2000. We mock the wingnuts
who let the icecaps melt because the Rapture is nigh.

How to be good if a caul covers the prospect of your faith?
Create an image, any image, haloed, scimitared, thrust it
through Time’s wasp-waisted birth canal, let it emerge
bearded, lank, rebarbative. Tell yourself he’s the Man.

Now sit back as He pries the world apart. This is the end,
you’ll surmise, the end of dalliance, of amity, the last gasp
of afflatus, of consequent sorrow. Watch as He scythes
the last wheat, which flies like the severed heads of infidels.

Then why does the bread we break savor of no body
but the embodied ghosts of ancient grass? What infinity lives
in the turning leaves but a vaulted vision of our bonhomie?
What life basks at this homely fire but sees Saoshyant’s flame?

The embers will hold an American absence, ashes that leave
no mark of ankh or enso on him who frees critical mass
from a suitcase bomb. The last cloud will rain fire on flesh
that chars to faithless marrow. Even now the soul is fugitive.

(Editor’s note: Saoshyant is the World Savior figure in Zoroastrianism.)

Emanuel Xavier: “If Jesus Were Gay”

This provocative poem came to my attention on Kittredge Cherry’s blog Jesus in Love, a site that showcases images of GLBT spirituality and other nontraditional portrayals of the divine. Kitt writes:

Xavier makes sweet poetry out of his experiences as a gay Latino whose painful past includes sexual abuse at age 3 and rejection by his Catholic mother for being gay at age 16, leading to homelessness, drug dealing, prostitution — and at last to poetry….

…I perceived the face of Christ in his poems, even the [sexually explicit] ones. The book’s implication is that the rejected gay Jesus might turn to sex, drugs and prostitution to survive in America today. And our Savior would still embody love and beauty amid the muck.

In interviews, [Xavier] credits poetry with saving his life. “Fortunately, I walked away unscathed,” he told CNN. “I thought that God had given me a second chance, and I felt like I had to do something with that.”

Xavier has given me permission to reprint “If Jesus Were Gay”, the title poem of his collection, below. Visit his website at

If Jesus Were Gay

If Jesus were gay,
would you tattoo him to your body?
hang him from your chest?
pray to him and worship the Son of Man?
Would you still praise him
after dying for your sins?

If it was revealed Jesus kissed another man,
but not on the cheek,
would you still beg him for forgiveness?
ask him for miracles?
hope your loved ones get to meet him
in heaven?

If Jesus were gay,
and still loved by God and Mary
because he was their child after all
hailed by all angels and feared by demons,
would you still long to be healed by him?
take him into your home and comfort him?
heal his wounds and break bread with him?

Would wars be waged over religion?
Would world leaders invoke his name
for votes?
Would churches everywhere rejoice
and celebrate his life?
Would rappers still thank him
in their acceptance speeches?

If the crown of thorns
were placed on his head
to mock him as the “Queen of the Jews”
If he was whipped
because fags are considered
sadomasochistic sodomites,
If he was crucified
for the brotherhood of man
would you still repent?

Would you pray to him
when you were dying?
If he didn’t ask for you to be just like him,
If he only wanted you to love yourself,
If he asked that you not judge others,
Would you still wait for him to come back and save your soul?

Would you deny him?
Would you believe in peace?
Would there still be hate?
Would there still be hell?

Would there be laws
based on the meaning of true love?
What would Jesus do?
What would you do?

Listen to his poem “Waiting for God”, a plea to end police brutality, on YouTube:

Beer-Battered Squirrel (‘n’ Dumplings)

Turning Point Books, the publisher of my first collection A Talent for Sadness, is an imprint of WordTech Communications in Cincinnati. WordTech’s various imprints have published well-known poets like Robert Hass, Allison Joseph, and Rachel Hadas, as well as many emerging writers. Their monthly e-newsletter keeps us all up-to-date on one another’s readings and book reviews.

That’s where I discovered Richard Newman’s memorable poem “Wild Game“, from his collection Borrowed Towns (Word Press, 2005). “Wild Game” was featured on Garrison Keillor’s NPR broadcast The Writer’s Almanac on June 22 and can be read on their website. In this poem, the narrator reminiscences about his great-grandma Lizzie, whose scandalized in-laws were unable to polish away her zesty backwoods ways. I appreciate Newman’s use of the sonnet, that highbrow and tightly controlled form, to symbolize and poke fun at their containment efforts:

…It wasn’t that her wildness was tamed—
Lizzie used the finishing they taught her
to sneak the savagery in under their noses.

Roast haunch of venison, roast possum
with cranberry sauce, hare pie, quail on toast
points, merckle turtle stew, and the most
famous dish of all: cherry blossom
gravy, dumplings, and beer-battered squirrel.

Read the whole poem here .

Also in the WordTech newsletter, I enjoyed Meredith Davies Hadaway’s “Hall of Records“, an honorable mention winner in the 2010 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry. Her book The River is a Reason is forthcoming from Word Press next year. They also published her first collection, Fishing Secrets of the Dead, in 2005.

Somewhere in a strange city,
my father cradled me in one arm while
gesticulating to the man in charge of records:

a birth—to write it down.

He’d always said we should go back there.
As if it proved that once and far away
we’d been part of the same enterprise.

The 2010 Tor House first-prize winner, Jude Nutter’s “Legacy“, is also amazing, as is every poem of hers that I’ve read. See her 2005 first-prize entry in the Winning Writers War Poetry Contest here .

Online Literary Roundup: Wag’s Review, Gemini Magazine, DIAGRAM

From time to time I like to highlight memorable work from some of my favorite online literary journals. In addition to the ones featured below, I regularly read Anderbo, Narrative Magazine, DMQ Review, and The Pedestal Magazine. Scoff all you will at the iPad/iPhone cult, but I’m in love with mine because they allow me to catch up on these journals without wasting work time at my desktop.

Wag’s Revue issue #6 , “Truthiness”, features fictional, nonfictional, and metafictional musings on the blurry line between fact and…everything else. One person’s assault on authorial credibility is another person’s mixed-genre innovation. Sometimes they’re the same person. With Stephen Colbert, you’re never quite sure. The man who coined “truthiness” speaks with editor Will Guzzardi about how things become true because we believe them. “My performance of myself, I think, testifies to the omnipresence of art, inasmuch as the artistic gesture ultimately comes down to an intrusion into semblance—exposing, in its brute state, the gap of the real.” Yes, that’s Colbert–or is it Guzzardi inventing what Colbert might say, if he deigned to be interviewed? Does it matter?

Other intriguing readings in this issue include an essay on the nonexistent Hiroshima poet Araki Yasusada, and Tony Tulathimutte’s story “The Man Who Wasn’t Male“, whose protagonist’s solution to the burden of performing masculinity has its own bloody, twisted logic. (Is “nonexistent” really the right word for a poet whose biography is fictitious, but whose work genuinely exists, though written by another? Read the essay and decide.)


Hallie Rundle’s “Asphalt Sky “, the winner of Gemini Magazine ‘s latest fiction contest, is an affecting story narrated by a girl who works for an escort service, as she seeks genuine understanding of the people she meets in a profession that depends on disconnection and illusion. The runner-up stories are also good reads.


In DIAGRAM issue 10.3 , Emma Ramey interviews Miss Peach, the trippy but fierce protagonist of Catie Rosemurgy’s new poetry collection The Stranger Manual. I enjoyed Rosemurgy’s earlier collection My Favorite Apocalypse and will have to pick up this volume very soon. Other useful or ornamental features in this issue include diagrams of “Antecedents of The Wasteland” and “How to Hit Back at Dive Bombers”, and Amy Marcott’s “Flying the Coop“, a story about Alzheimer’s caregivers that’s written as a discussion thread on a fictitious online message board.

Wisdom (?) from Miss Peach:

“There have only ever been two kinds of poetry: narrative and lyric. And some other kind that is sort of lyric but in a new way that sounds like a breakdown but doesn’t lead to the hospital because that’s a narrative. I say, don’t worry: narrative and lyric hate each other, but like the rest of us they share a house and make babies. They buy one another the perfect gifts.”

“To find something beautiful one must have no idea what it is.”

“Call me optimistic, but I believe that inside every girl is someone who is not a girl but who looks like one and laughs.”

Big Gay News: Massachusetts Judge Deems DOMA Unconstitutional

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley wasn’t able to hold onto the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat for the Democrats, but she got my vote for supporting this lawsuit against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 federal law prohibiting the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages in any context. The AG’s office argued that the U.S. Constitution leaves the definition of marriage up to the states. Since gay marriage is legal here, the federal government shouldn’t force Massachusetts to discriminate in distributing federal benefits.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) brought a companion case on behalf of several gay couples who argued that DOMA violated their equal protection rights with regard to federal income tax, Social Security, and federal employee benefits for Massachusetts residents. GLAD was also behind the lawsuit that led to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s landmark gay marriage ruling in 2003.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled in both cases that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional. Read the decision and GLAD’s press release here . Read more analysis in The Advocate magazine here . Visit the Courage Campaign website to send President Obama a message urging him not to appeal the ruling.

From The Advocate article:

…“Today the court simply affirmed that our country won’t tolerate second-class marriages,” said GLAD Civil Rights Project director Mary Bonauto, who argued the case. “I’m pleased that Judge Tauro recognized that married same-sex couples and surviving spouses have been seriously harmed by DOMA and that the plaintiffs deserve the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and for their children that other families enjoy. This ruling will make a real difference for countless families in Massachusetts.”

In his 39-page opinion in Gill, Tauro dismissed lawmakers’ intentions in passing DOMA to “encourag[e] responsible procreation and child-bearing,” among other identified societal aims.

“Even if Congress believed at the time of DOMA’s passage that children had the best chance at success if raised jointly by their biological mothers and fathers, a desire to encourage heterosexual couples to procreate and rear their own children more responsibly would not provide a rational basis for denying federal recognition to same-sex marriages,” Tauro wrote. “Such denial does nothing to promote stability in heterosexual parenting.

Preserving marriage as a one-man, one-woman institution for the interests of “responsible procreation” was a central argument for attorneys defending Prop. 8 in federal court — one that faced similar scrutiny during closing arguments last month from U.S. district judge Vaughn R. Walker, who has yet to reach a decision in the case.

In oral arguments in May, Bonauto argued in Gill that the government has no reason to withhold the more than 1,000 federal benefits of marriage from same-sex couples, noting that a 1996 House Judiciary Committee report “explicitly stated the purpose of DOMA was to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, Maura T. Healey, chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, told Tauro during oral arguments that Section 3 violates the state’s right under the federal constitution to sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents. Healey called DOMA an “animus-based national marriage law” that intrudes on core state authority and “forces the state to discriminate against its own citizens.”

Christopher Hall, representing the Department of Health and Human Services, argued that Congress should be able to control the meaning of terms, such as “marriage,” used in its own statutes, and should be able to control how federal money is allocated for federal benefits provided to people based on their marital status.

In considering whether the federal government had any legitimate need for DOMA, both Bonauto and Healey had urged Tauro to apply strict scrutiny review, which requires the government to show a compelling reason for a law that affects a fundamental right or a vulnerable group. In both lawsuits, however, Tauro said that DOMA failed to meet even the most simple judicial review, rational basis.

Also of interest in The Advocate’s June-July issue, a profile of Mary Glasspool, the new suffragan bishop of Maryland and the first openly lesbian bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church. My favorite quote:

…Why is the issue of sexual identity so difficult for so many churches—Episcopal or otherwise? “I think the basic issue is gender,” Glasspool says. “And one can see this being played out in the Roman Catholic Church. The issue is the status and role of women, and the balance of the feminine and masculine in the way in which we experience and encounter God. Where we allow women to be in positions of leadership and power and authority, we have a more balanced view of the community that is the world.”

Peace be with you, Bishop Glasspool!

My Story “Career”

Online publishing…I hesitate to say a word against it, since it’s what I do for a living. Stories on the web can be more widely disseminated than texts that are locked up between the pages of a print journal, prestigious though the latter may be. But when that site comes to an end, as they often do, your story is swept away like a Zen sand painting, as if it had never been. So, which is better: a solid yet obscure artifact, or an ephemeral but easily shared one? A story that could theoretically still be read, but probably won’t be, or one that probably was read, but no longer can be?

This Borges-style conundrum is a good lead-in to young Julian’s preoccupations in “Career”, a flash fiction of mine that was originally published in 2008 on the Israeli literary webzine Cyclamens and Swords, but is no longer available there due to a site redesign. The editors have released it to be republished here instead.

The C&S poetry contest , with a prize of $300, is open to submissions through November 30. They’re also accepting regular submissions for their next issue until July 31.


(Summer 1980)

It was one of Daddy’s happy nights so he was driving too fast down the hill that came after the school but before the golf course, with me and Carter strapped in the back seat screaming like we were enjoying ourselves, because that was what we were supposed to do. The air in the car was bourbon, it was the heaviness of the clouds before rain. We opened the windows and let the wind slap our faces, we yelled out like dogs.

Daddy had his angry nights and his sad nights too. We heard noises in the kitchen and tried not to put stories to them. I got good at separating the sound of glass breaking into its constituent parts: the whoosh of the trajectory, the impact, the tinkling fall, the eggshell crunch underfoot. Carter used to pop balloons. He would blow them up as fat as they could go and then stomp them. He used to go through ten, twenty a night when it was bad. I asked once why he didn’t just chew bubblegum and he hit me upside the head with his semiautomatic water gun. My big brother’s never been very introspective.

On a happy night Daddy would have gone drinking with his old Georgia Tech football buddies. He’d want to share that energy with us, enough to promise us ice cream that we never got, to give Mama a reason why we were being torn from her side on a school night. Well, we got it once but Carter threw up in a sand trap after Daddy plunged through the hedge separating the Boltwood Country Club from Route 28. We were members so I assume they just took it out of his dues. My sister Laura Sue got to stay home pressing little beady raisin eyes into the fat faces of gingerbread men. I wasn’t a girl, I couldn’t cook, and the taste from Daddy’s pocket flask was like pressing my lips to a hot skillet.

On this night I remember especially, I was about eight and Carter was ten. It was January, raining. We sped down the hill belting out “The Wanderer,” the Beach Boys one, not Johnny Cash. Daddy and Carter were out of tune and I wasn’t, but there were two of them and one of me. The black road curved across the intersection, slick in the mist.

We snapped forward, like hanged men when the rope drops, as Daddy slammed on the brakes, cursing. A truck’s red grille filled our windows, blaring its horn in our naked ears. I saw the stop sign we’d blown through, peeking out from under a low-hanging branch, like it was teasing us.

“Jesus Christ on a trampoline,” Daddy yelled, and hit the steering wheel. “Did y’all see how fast that faggot was going?”

“Yeah, I saw,” I lied, thinking it would please him. I didn’t have the same rules about this that I have now, to be true to my own eyes.

“Well, why didn’t you tell me to stop, then, you friggin’ fairy princess?”

Daddy called his boys girl names when he wanted to humiliate us into being stronger. I wouldn’t have minded being a princess if it meant I could get gingerbread instead of whiplash.

“I thought you could see. It was right there.”

“Don’t you backtalk me.” I knew what was coming. Next gas station, he pulled over into the parking lot so he could smack my ass good. He sent Carter into the convenience store with money for candy bars, both of which my brother bought for himself, pretending to forget that peanuts gave me spots. It’s funny that I didn’t notice the pain. It was only a drum beating far away. The light over the pumps was such a pure, bright white; the purple-gray sky was so big and swollen with wind. I had been on the truck side of the car.

Back home Mama was boiling rice for a casserole. I was mesmerized by the sight of the steam rising. As every unique curl of vapor lifted and dissolved, I thought, I almost wasn’t here to see this; and then, I was saved so I would see this. Why would something so unimportant keep me alive? Maybe I was unimportant too, but I was here, and the shape of the steam in this instant, from the white rice giving up its clean hot essence like laundry, couldn’t be seen by anyone else in the world.