‘Stewing’ by Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta

As a young poet, I was a foot-tapper, a nail-biter, an arm drummer and an insomniac. Couldn’t keep still, couldn’t be bothered for a shut-eye. Ardor aside, I was also writing the worst poems of my life—i.e. villanelles riffing on Stoppard’s The Invention of Love or that play by Tennessee Williams; lines that, depending on the day would either read: “I would have lied for you but I was never so lucky,” or “I have always relied on the blindness of strangers.” The poems ran on caffeine and fast food. And skill, I’d like to say, but I’d be lying.  I’d hand first drafts over to my sister who returned them to me saying “Let it stew, darling, let it stew.”

Let it stew?  Who had the time? There was the first collection I wanted published before I was 21; the musical/novel/screenplay I wanted to write, there was college to graduate from, and an MFA program to apply to.  I didn’t “stew,” I opposite of stewed: I scarfed down, gobbled and wolfed.  I burnt my tongue, I choked on toast.

Fastness has its uses, I’ll concede. But today I decide to make a real stew. It’s an education in varying intensities of heat, the rich redness of tomatoes playing off its attendant players: stock, saffron, wine and seafood; it’s about alchemy and preparedness, which ingredients go into the pot first, and which last, depending on what takes longer to cook and what can’t be cooked for too long. It’s about browning, not burning, going the way of tender minutes and turning the slow potatoes. It’s about an entire new vocabulary for time. Two hours into my experiment, I hear my husband shuffle into the kitchen: “You’ve been in the kitchen for two whole hours!” he exclaims, “I thought you’d been kidnapped!” He sees the flush pot in front of me and eases a mussel into his mouth with a scrap of bread. “This is pretty good,” he says, “are you going to write a poem about this?”  Yes, I tell him, but not yet.


Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta is the author of three poetry collections: The Proxy Eros (2008), Burning Houses (2013) and Tropicalia (2016). She obtained an MFA from the New School University in 2002, and has since taught in major universities in Manila. Lacuesta has also edited and co-edited various literary anthologies including Metro Serye, a fold-out zine featuring new fiction, poetry and graphic art; and the forthcoming The Achieve of, The Mastery, with Dr. Gemino Abad. Widely-awarded in the Philippines, she was the Filipino delegate to the 2012 Medellín Poetry Festival and the 2016 Macau Literary Festival. In 2015, she completed a writing residency for the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

featured image via Not Eating Out In New York.

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