My boss, the head nurse, says she has a collection of Ming Dynasty crockery,
Qing dynasty snuff bottles and a
Shang 代 bronze tripod vase
always filled with fresh pomegranates
looted by her ancestors or
bought at Sotherby’s
for all the tea in China.
“I’m the poor cousin, the others got more
Come for dinner and you’ll see them all.”
I disliked her then, now I dislike her now
But it is Queen Victoria I should 更讨厌
throw rotten eggs
or spray Four bandits on the pedestal upon which
she sits in the park at the end of Great George Street.
‘Looty’ was her Pekinese,
say it in Cantonese ‘北京狗!’
It is my boss, not Victoria, who wants me to eat beef stroganoff and polenta
off my ancestor’s plates.
sniff the potpourri she’s placed
in rhinoceros shell lined bottles
translate the inked poems
about ancient fish
and explain why the toad has red eyes
flared nose and only three legs
For dessert she will make a Pavlova in her new Bosch oven
with fresh cherries, bruised seconds from local farms.
I usually pay to admire stolen goods, encased in glass cabinets,
national treasures and ancient clays I cannot afford to buy.
I’ve seen the Egyptian treasures, excavated
by the men who live in Downtown Abbey
“Your Chinese mouth would not touch these Chinese treasures
had we not salvaged history back to Portsmouth.
Look at what happened to the Temple of Ballashamin
the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan!”
We have an understanding she and I.
I order pens, paper, ink cartridges and pantry supplies, soaps,
malted milk and chocolate biscuits
for children who attend our geriatric clinic.
I add two extra boxes of tampons
“For the patients of course”
I nod when she says, “People should pay for their health care.”
because she gives me hour long-lunch breaks
and calls me “good boy.”
So I say “will come to dinner.”
I will see if Russian gravy taste better on centuries old porcelain plates
patterned by cobalt and manganese
and ingest the same trace elements as
imperial court nobles who ate 菜 off the
crockery when they were fresh out of the kiln.
But my cousin says that our people were the peasants who woke up early to
harvest grains of rice with our hands,
and we were foreigners to the forbidden city.
I ask him what I should wear to a meal with the descendants
drug dealers who poisoned a nation with opioids
rendered it sick
too yellow and diseased
to walk in leafy green meadows
when they could not cure their addiction to yum cha.
He says, “I will lend you my vest, cut from the uniform of a Song dynasty eunuch.
It does not fit me but it will indeed fit you.”
代 – ‘dai’ – era
更讨厌 – ‘geng tao yen’ – more hate
菜– ‘cai’ – food dishes
*北京狗– ‘Bei Jing Gao’ – Pekinese Dog but Cantonese pronunciation is ‘bah-ging gow’
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTCOMING SOON with Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones