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Grinding Cacao

By Ryan Caidic

The heirloom beans that were, for a week, fermented

inside used ice cream tins, are ready for roasting. Stewing


in cacao wine, I plucked the beans from calico pods,

cleaving for sweet earthy pearls. I sucked and spat


the fussilade seeds, saving them for my weekend

mother, who I also called, Nanay, the nanny who took


care of my father as a young boy, who took care of me on days

when my real mother would work shifts in hospital,


whose heart was a furnace that fed two generations

with cassava, whose hands coaxed life from droughts.


In her scorching hut, Nanay guzzles down the fermented

wine then kisses immaculate her Marian


scapular. A laugh runs through her heron neck, as she

roasts the beans on volcanic


pan with arms that pull from the skies, folding back

into the air the spicy scent of wild chocolates. With what’s left


of her wings, she flips the beans to god, catches

them on a tray, while I wait for the best part—the milling. With her mother


talons she funnels the beads into the grinder’s small mouth. It is my turn

to turn and turn the iron with little hands. ‘Go on,’


she chirps. ‘It may not happen all at once.’ I churn

and churn, with all my might, I go


on until the tablea reveals itself,

as brown as her camphoric skin, as rich


as inherited soil. With a knife she shapes the velvet, showing me

how to cut constellations.





*Nanay –Filipino for mother
*Tablea-pure Filipino chocolate paste

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