Black Sesame

By: Adrienne Su

Featured art: Flowers of a Hundred Worlds (Momoyogusa): Fulling Silk (Uchiginu) by Kamisaka Sekka 

Had I stayed in touch with black sesame,
much would have turned out differently.

For years I forgot the late nights with my mother,
the small bowls of hot sweetened water,

porcelain spoons, and white dumplings
with almost-black black-sesame filling

dwelling somewhere between dessert
and snack, erasing the not-quite hunger

that holds off sleep. At that hour
their strangeness didn’t register:

no one else could see them; the notion
of soup as dessert could be taken

for granted; the lack of an English
name caused no confusion. Packaged,

frozen, easy to heat, they could be served
within minutes of craving, all records

of indulgence swept away as quickly.
Perhaps it was this simplicity,

decades later, that made me feel at peace
in a void. It didn’t feel like sacrifice

to forgo a confection
I had left to oblivion.

What finally reminded me
that I had made myself lonely

was black sesame’s coming into fashion—
cakes, gelato, pastry—the recognition

a mild punch to the abdomen
like that moment in a museum

when a terracotta soldier, a Frida Kahlo,
or an archaic torso of Apollo

turns what you thought was satiety
into a quest for family.


Adrienne Su‘s fifth book of poems, Peach State, is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2021.

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