“who the fuck does slanty-eyes think she is?
why won’t [you] do anything about the wonton?”
Sharon Osbourne, speaking about her co-worker Julie Chen
for $5 you get the Wednesday special. a
whole-ass plate to yourself,
pristine pillows of dough fried to a crisp.
you want that good crunch, that tension before you
snap through to the substance; the
meat. after all, what’s the body of a dumpling but
a vessel for whatever you want to fill it with:
yellow on the outside, white on the inside.
model minority crust with a delicious accusation in the middle;
choose your flavor of yellow terror.
what’ll it be today? are we
or job thieves?
too dumb to learn English
or too smart for our own good?
the guilty pleasure in your spa room
or the sirens on your shoulder you need to silence?
officer, i’m sorry – it was my cheat day. don’t you know i
wouldn’t have shot if they hadn’t seduced me first? that
cheap Chinese eats are my all-American birthright? that
the only good Asian is the one you can
curse before devouring
in one bloody bite?
i hunger for a day when i can write anything other than a
fucking dumpling poem. a poem about anything other than
mincing my feelings into marbled bits;
folding them into thinly-veiled metaphors;
chopping, slicing, deep frying the contents of a breaking heart
until i have something good enough to plate,
something firm enough to hold together
but tender enough to melt in some
penny pinching customer’s mouth. whatever. i regret to
inform you the restaurant is closed today for a private
family matter. when i try to speak at the wake my words gristle
in my throat; ticker tape it up with raw beef, egg, scallion.
register locked, i swallow my feelings and pass out on the
kitchen floor; concussed, my memory stretches back
buckwheat wild to my doljanchi: the first birthday party.
if you make it around the sun once, my parents remind me,
you can do it again. just keep your head down, your feet on
the ground. mortgage your wildest aspirations into
bite-size payments; settle for
dollar-store balloons, slices of cake, Dixie plates piled high,
presents strewn across the floor like a landscape of
each object a symbol of a different destiny:
a gavel for justice,
a stethoscope for health,
a book for scholarship,
grains of rice for wealth. everyone watches to see
where i crawl, what path to security i claim as mine. i
wish it were so simple. instead i
stay put, stretch my fingers out into
noodles. for once, i do not cut my words short, do not
fold my feelings, do not knead myself into anything softer.
i grow longer and longer until i can tourniquet myself around
grieving families from Oakland to Atlanta, until i can stretch
farther than small minds or mouths can hold, until i can soak up
flavors so fresh we only dream of them in our sleep,
hopes so potent that for a moment
i swear we could choke on them.
m.o is a high-school English teacher in the Bay Area who loves raising their adopted gecko baby, playing Ring Fit Adventure on Switch, and curating a sick collection of discount frozen meals. In college, they self-published their first book, speech therapy, in order to raise money for the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence. Their 2021 resolution is to embrace failure and rejection.