I did not mean to burn the rice tonight.
‘Planting rice is never fun’ – generations
of men, women and children ankle-deep
in padi fields, bent double at the waist,
immersing seedlings day after day.

Finally, the harvest: sharp scythes glinting
in the afternoon sun, stalks of ripened grain tossed
into baskets strapped onto backs like babies too young
to walk. Next, the rice huller, churning husks
away from the hearts. Then the long hours polishing

each dark grain into pearly white. I’d forgotten
that brown rice needed more than double
the usual measure of water. I smelt the charring,
then saw: scorched rice like black gold,
my ancestors’ ashes in a bowl.