The Rice-Eating Ceremony

Sonia Sarkar

Nine months into my life, I am asked to eat on command
These tiny bursts of cylindrical snow that will reappear
Again and again: pelted dry at my head as I become another;
Turned impossibly orange at the taqueria on Newbury;
Set to the side as each year’s blood sugar tests inevitably rise.

In the now, a paper crown weighs heavy on my tiny head,
Accenting eyes that opened yellow upon greeting the world
I was a jaguar-baby, ravenous in my desire to gulp the air
Hair bristled and ready to poke out Ma’s russet iris
As she guides my chubby fingers to choose a destiny:
the pen, the spoon, the jewels, the clay, the book.

Dozens gather to watch this transition into adulthood.
This first solid bite, this first symbol of renewed destination
That has brought them across the pacific rim to sunny
San Leandro. They are hoping beyond hope for the book.
Rubies in America shine just a shade too brightly.