First Marriage

poetry 0
James K. Zimmerman


when I steam brown rice
I remember you in the smell


when I peel purple onions
I hold a wooden matchstick
between my teeth


you told me it would
keep away the tears


when I mince red chiles
when I crush cloves
of garlic I remember
when I still thought
I knew who you were


when I pound plum tomatoes
with my fist I remember
that you showed me how
to make salsa fra diavolo


you taught me to feel
the satisfaction as the peppers
burn my throat

James K. Zimmerman’s writing appears in American Life in Poetry, Chautauqua, Vallum, Nimrod, and Pleiades, among others. He is author of Little Miracles (Passager, 2015) and Family Cookout (Comstock, 2016), winner of the Jessie Bryce Niles Prize.