Brenda Tai Layton

Brenda was poet laureate between 2005 and 2006. Her winning poem is below. You can contact Brenda on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit her website by clicking here

Kitchen Ritual – Rice



Kitchen Ritual – Rice

Fay washes rice in the dumpling bowl,
An heirloom from her mother that some day,
despite the chipped enamel,
She’ll present to one of her children.

She washes rice in the dumpling bowl,
her brown fingers scoop and rise water glazed,
like five dolphins,
above the speckles of white foam.

A watcher may wonder, why bother?
for no one, not even Delia does that,
but Fay washes rice through
the memories of her island’s history.

The tricks of thieves were there
not long ago.
who could get the weevils out,
without water?
Who could get stones out,
without water?
Rice could never be clean,
Without three washes.

She know today’s rice is not impure,
knows all choices are hers;
so she does it as homage to a tradition,
takes pleasure in using the bowl and hopes
the lack of starch will make her slim.