December 2021 Prize Winner!

This poem won the Poetry Prompt Prize for December 2021. It is inspired by Evelyn Lau’s writing prompt “Peel the Onion”.

Using the sensory language of food, Maggie Yang deftly confronts the white washing of culture and an inner conflict that often joins one’s reflections as a child of a diaspora.
— Therese Estacion, 2022 Voices/Voix Journal Editor

A Red and Gold Salad

Maggie Yang

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新年快乐 the lanterns shined, repeatedly battered
by the bitter wind of a foreign land. They sing

in disharmonized colors, English tearing their voices into
tattered silks. Of radios crackling Christmas songs

in an alien language, amidst the sizzling of dumplings on pans, the frying
of our skin in the eyes of this country. Let her stride crush us

into the ingredients of a melting pot, stirring variegation into a single value.
In one ear and out the other, we taste an unknown dialect

amidst spoken characters under the branch of a Ginkgo.
We reunite another year under the leaves of a fake tree because the real one

would suffocate itself in this barren land of color. 3 pairs of chopsticks lie untouched
on the wooden table Mama and baba order:

饺子 and 炒饭 she says by heart. And a salad, I added
after a long comb of the menu. The waitress gingerly pulled a fork

from behind the counter, setting it on the table in front of me.
We sit in the same seats, spooning silence into our mouths.

A language of eating in feasts of red and gold, forgotten and coated
with new wallpaper, buried under the dried masks of this neighborhood, each whiff

escaping from the wooden windows to be disintegrated
by the blizzard.

One 饺子 and 炒饭 and a salad, the waitress said, lowering our food from the platter.
As I expected a simple salad of green, a rainbow of red and gold

stared back at me, embellished with what was my embarrassment.

_____ ____ ___ __ _

Translations:
新年快乐: Happy New Year
饺子: dumplings
炒饭: fried rice