For Here Or To-Go: A Poem

This piece was first read at an event hosted by the brilliant Kristen Felicetti, featuring Actual Asian Poets. It is inspired by the many years working at my family’s restaurant, repeating the same phrase over and over to incoming customers

For Here Or To-Go

Welcome to New China Buffet
For here or to-go?
What price do you pay for that General “Tee-so”?

Until soy sauce stains the fingernails brown
Until lungs breathe in sweet, breathe out sour
Until knuckles freeze in place around the cleaver

Welcome to New China Buffet
For here or to-go?
What price do you pay for that General “So”?

Until sesame seeds fall from the scalp like confetti
Until eyes mistake the broccoli for trees
Until ears shrivel at the sound of…

“Welcome to New China Buffet
For here or to-go?”

What price do you pay for that General “Zho”?

Until fingers burn into bite-sized bits
Until cooking oil forms a second crispy skin
Until backbones bend to the dome of the wok

Welcome to New China Buffet
Where we can live American lives
(Where we can feed Americans lies)
What do we pay for that “Zhou-zhong-gai”?
A body for breaking and no price too high

 

 

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