A Special Starch: Poems by Grace Yee

By | 1 August 2021
with two black dates for sweetness

let’s languish on little bourke street: the longest continuous chinese settlement in the western world.

I am learning to prioritise my heritage in this shiny-buckled civilisation, where yellow-perilled white men brass the city’s walls.

in schoolyards across the border, they celebrate chinamen scalpings with tai chi 太極 and dim sum 點心 – touch the heart – roll up! roll up!

I prefer my memories sepia: great-grandfather dim and lantern-lit, strolling to church in heffernan lane, sunday fingers smelling of salty plum and shellac.

after god: steamed egg, rice and salted fish, and bricolage parties with little prior notification – whisky, fan tan, opium, gei neoi 妓女, and for the children, a bear from mei gwok 美國 made of rubber that squeaks like an oracle when pressed.

I stay at the IGA out of respect for great-grandfather, who supported two wives, eight children and twenty-seven grandchildren french polishing.

it is our duty to be both filial and fascinating. in this street we are Asian Delights, our buildings ornate, our women exotic, our festivals joy-lucky spec-tac-u-lar.

god give us the strength to continue to dress our laminex tables in fine white linen, to remember our strong western client base.

with two black dates for sweetness, let us pray lest we become too numerous.

妓女 prostitute
美國 America

‘with two black dates for sweetness’ includes phrases sourced and adapted from Arnold Zable and Sophie Couchman, Lygon St, Little Bourke St, Lonsdale St: the Vibrant History of Melbourne’s Italian, Chinese and Greek Cultural Precincts: Stories from the Heart of Melbourne. City of Melbourne. 2012; Hwuy-Ung, Mandarin of the Fourth Button. Translated by JA Makepeace. A Chinaman’s Opinion of Us And of His Own Country. London: Chatto & Windus. 1927.

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