Canary

My mother kept a perfect house
and never wore yellow.
“Most Oriental women can’t,”
she said. “It brings out
the worst in our complexions,”
making us buttercups, bananas,

canaries. The kids made banana
jokes in Chinese-American houses:
we’d been given the wrong complexion.
In my twenties, I received a yellow
cashmere sweater, thrown out
by a blonde friend. “I can’t

wear it anymore — my fat arms can’t,”
she lamented. The cashmere, if banana-
colored, felt as chocolate tasted. Out
of my mother and father’s house,
I tried on the proffered yellow.
Nothing exploded. Complexion

The Second Menu

The other land, where we once imagined this one,
the land where our names need no explanation,

asserts its life through pinned paper strips
that speak to insiders, with prices in Arabic.

Anyone can be a member, but few bother.
Those who try can soon discern the general picture:

sliver, bun, treasure, flesh, dweller of the sea.
Aside from the occasional “barbarian,” nobody

gets insulted. That menu, on the wall, not hiding,
divides modes of seeing, divides kitchen and dining,

yet is a bridge. One can cross or not-cross the lake.
One can be afraid although it has no dog, no snake.

Sizzling Rice Soup

may have arrived at tables
for reasons other than frugality,
abundance being a plausible
parent of creativity,

the freedom to overcook rice
then drop it in oil just to see
requiring that neither be scarce.
The signature shards — airy

yet resilient, crackling assertively
on encountering hot broth —
anchor performance and story,
what looks at first like loss

turning out to be a profound
discovery, as in the tale in which
a house burns down around
a man and his pet pig,

sparing the man, who reaches out
to the charred pig, instinctively
puts his burned hand in his mouth,
and happens upon the central meat