Feeding Nagasaki

by Chloe Cook

A garland of tako tentacles dangles
                        under the canopy
                        of Natsuo’s yatai. 

He grabs a dense, slick body,
                        head turned inside-out
                        like a pocket,

and begins preparation (hands
                        as a mortician’s):

dexterous knifework removes
                        the entrails, gloved
                        hands spelunk

buccal matter and elastic musculature
                        to excise the beak.
                        Natsuo’s sweat

(formed with the ancestry
                        of a fishing town)
                        drips in sync 

with a metal pot’s condensation
                        as the carcass
                        is dunked, boiled.

Once ready, Natsuo dices the limbs,
                        (there are no
                        bones to mind)

oils a large bowl, mushes a paste
                        of tako, minced
                        pickled ginger, green

onion, pre-packaged tempura bits.
                        Now gloveless (comfort
                        food should touch

flesh, at least once)
                        hands sticky themselves
                        as, between palms,

they roll amorphous blobs
                        into thick balls
                        Cooked golden in cast-

iron griddle, drizzled with yolk-toned
                        kewpie mayo
                        and Worcestershire glaze—

dusting of aonori
                        and katsuobushi on top—
                        Natsuo traps

fresh Takoyaki steam inside closed
                        paper bentos.
                        As lunch traffic fills

streets, black-haired children (hands
                        full of yen, tongues
                        demanding savory treats)

run to Natsuo’s on cue. A polyphony
                        of itadakimasu! rings
                        with a train horn,

and a discarded ink sac falls to cement
                        (explodes with the grandeur
                        of a water balloon).

Chloe Cook holds a BA in English from Northern Kentucky University. She is the author of a chapbook, Surge (Dancing Girl Press, 2022), and her writing is featured in Stoneboat Literary Journal, The Journal, Ghost City Review, and Sutterville Review, among others. Her honors include an International Merit Award from Atlanta Review and third place in the Kentucky State Poetry Society’s 2022 Grand Prix Poetry Contest (selected by Joy Priest). She is currently an MFA student at the University of Florida.