Patis by Romalyn Ante

If there is one vivid memory I have of Batangas,
it is of a favourite dish: sheen pieces of bullet tuna
wrapped in banana leaves, with earth-dark kamias,
simmered in a terracotta pot.

If there is one vivid memory I have of that house,
it is the plastic table mat. Floral-printed, sleek
in the light sifting through the window rails.
I cringed at the thought that the mat would coil
when the hot pot was laid.
My grandma’s specialty. Sour-salt to the bone
best eaten with boiled rice, using bare hands.

Two decades on, no one cooks patis anymore.
My grandma, in her wheelchair, calls me ‘sister’.
The locals no longer nap in the afternoon.
The grove of mango and bilimbi, the cornfields,
the water buffalos – all replaced by tiles and lifts.

There is a certain sour-salt taste
I always long for.