Eat Chinese Style

By Emily Strauss

Remember you are not the Emperor
peasant beneath the dirt— you will eat rice
day and night, if you’re lucky green leaves
from the field, every morsel of the pig—
you will eat before dawn on the edge of the paddy
standing or squatting, legs spread to miss
falling grains, spat-out bones well-chewed,
chicken skulls, fishes’ backbone—
fill your cheeks full,
teeth rotted, black, missing,
suck the marrow
noisily in satisfaction— eat fast, this is not pleasure
but necessity, any talk superfluous as the rice bowl
brought to the lips is shoveled empty into the open
mouths, children still skeletal, gaunt, round eyes
follow every moving chopstick.

Now you have been dragged into a modern world
and you still eat in great shoveling mouthfuls
intently, silently, legs splayed, feet resting on a stool
or squatting— the bowl still white with piled rice,
now with a higher class of vegetables from a store,
still sucking fish heads
chicken feet
pig knuckles
pork fat stewed with peanuts,
still short, wiry bodies instinctively grasping a hoe,
trotting with double-poled baskets dancing
to your quick steps, the shoulders rounded
with thick callouses though you may ride a train now
to an office on a street, in a city, lunch still a fast bowl of rice
meat, rice, vegetable— no you are not the Emperor


“Wanna try one?” by Matt Ming

Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry. Nearly 200 of her poems appear in over 100 anthologies and online venues. The natural world is generally her framework; she often focuses on the tension between nature and humanity, using concrete images to illuminate the loss of meaning between them. She is a semi-retired teacher living in California.