How to Cook Rice

Measure two handfuls for a prosperous man.
Place in pot and wash by rubbing palms together
as if you can’t quite get yourself to pray, or
by squeezing it in one fist. Wash
several times to get rid of the cloudy water;
when you are too high in Heaven, looking down
at the clouds, you can’t see what’s precious below.
Rinse with cold water and keep enough so that
it will barely cover your hand placed on the rice.
Don’t use hot water, there are metallic diseases
colliding in it. This method of measuring water will work
regardless of the size of the pot; if the pot is large,
use both hands palms down as if to pat your own belly.
Now place on high heat without cover and cook
until the water has been boiled away except in craters
resembling those of the moon, important
in ancient times for growing rice. Now place lid on top
and reduce heat to medium, go read your newspaper
until you get to the comics, then come back and turn it down to low.
The heat has been gradually traveling from the outside
to the inside of the rice, giving it texture;
a similar thing happens with people, I suppose.
 
Go back to your newspaper, finish the comics, and read
the financial page. Now the rice is done, but before
you eat, consider the peasant who arcs in leech-infested
paddies and who carefully plants the rice seedlings
one by one; on this night, you are eating better than he.
If you still don’t know how to cook rice, buy a Japanese
automatic rice cooker; it makes perfect rice every time!

Koon Woon, "How to Cook Rice" from Water Chasing Water.  Copyright © 2013 by Koon Woon.  Reprinted by permission of Kaya Press.
Source: Water Chasing Water (Kaya Press, 2013)
More Poems by Koon Woon