Mary Jean Chan


Field Notes on a Chinese Meal


The dimension is at fault. A ceramic pot
tilts towards horizon, angles for a shot at
acceptance, the quiet rush of tea into glass.


The Ming lacquer table is a dumb beast in
the corner of the living room – a museum
of buried desires. No one says anything –


Mom says: have you eaten enough, slept
enough? Don’t cry. Here, have some fish.
You’re Chinese. You can’t be vegetarian.


The politics of enough keeps the peace. Tea
rushes into glass, chopsticks skip across air
to select their next victim. The slaughtered.


Lamb. The innocent grains nestled against
gristle and bone. The face of your mother
wavering in the soup bowl. Three spoons.


Shatter her frown. Keep your head down.
Kiss your tea. Say thanks, I’ve had enough.



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Mary Jean Chan has published in The Poetry Review (forthcoming), The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal, The Rialto, Ambit, and is a co-editor of Oxford Poetry. Her article “Towards a Poetics of Racial Trauma: Lyric Hybridity in Claudia Rankine’s Citizen” is forthcoming in 2017 from The Journal of American Studies.