Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


So Chinese Girl

Anyone who makes tasty food has to be a good person,
            because think of all the love that goes into cooking:
salt and pepper, sprinkle a little extra cheese, and pop open a bottle

            of Syrah, or if we’re eating at my parents’ in Las Vegas,
we’re drinking Tsingtao beer, my father’s favorite, and he adds more
            bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms and baby corn,

and fun fact: When I was a baby, I’d eat only corn and carrot-flavored
            mush, and now, my dad adds more to the Buddha’s Delight,
a vegetarian dish from China, and I think about my aunt

            in Hong Kong, who, once a year, buys fish from restaurants,
only to release them back into the sea—eat tofu,
            save a life—but back to the dinner scene in Vegas,

my mom is making her Cantonese lobster, extra garlic and ginger,
            and I grew up licking lobster shells for their sauce,
I grew up waking up during summer vacations

            to my mother wearing a headband, warding off the grease
from cooking crabs and shrimps, heads intact, and there’s something, just something
            about my parents’ cooking that makes me feel

a little more like a Chinese girl, because I don’t live in Hong Kong,
            and unlike my cousins, my daily stop isn’t Bowring Street Station,
where I could pick up fresh mango cake before it’s sold out,

            or what about chocolate mousse cake in the shape of a bunny
or mini–dome cakes shaped like cows and pigs
            or cakes shaped like watermelons and shikwasa and citrus mikans,

and who wouldn’t want custard egg tarts or hot dogs
            wrapped in sweet bread or sesame balls, washing it all down
with cream soda, and I feel like that little Chinese girl

            in Kowloon again, getting picked up by my grandpa
after preschool, ready to go junk shopping, and I’d come home
            with shrimp crackers and a toy turtle aquarium and a snowman

painting and a dozen roses, and no, I don’t even like flowers anymore,
            but there’s something, just something about thrifting
with my grandpa now at age twenty-eight that makes me feel

            so Chinese Girl, the way he bargains in the stalls,
asking for the best, “How much for that Murakami-era Louis Vuitton belt?”
            or “What about this vintage Armani?”

and it’s like that look he gives me at dim sum, after the sampler
            of shumai and har gow and chicken feet and char siu bao comes,
and he tells me to eat everything, watches me chow down on

            Chinese ravioli, and that face of his freezes in the moment:
“Eat more, eat more, eat more. Are you happy?”
            And oh, Grandpa, I’m so happy I could eat forever.

Credit


Copyright © 2019 Dorothy Chan. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2019.

Author


Dorothy Chan

Dorothy Chan is the author of Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019) and Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018). Chan is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and serves as the poetry editor of Hobart

Date Published: 2019-02-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/so-chinese-girl