Photos and Text by Jasper Lo
The fourth poem in the collection To Go To Macau. See the first one here.
To Go To Macau is a collection of poetry. You can categorize it in both genres of cookbook and memoir, your typical Good Morning America grandmother combo. This collection attempts to answer opposing questions two SIPA students have asked me: by a Chinese student during orientation, "But you're not really Chinese right?" and by an American student at a SIPA happy hour, "You were born here? Are you American?" Within these two questions, I explore themes of diaspora, violence, masculinity, race, and migration.
The menu (translator):
siu¹ jye⁶ si¹ fu⁶*²
Even in Macau, you miss Macau.
You look for it on the walls of a Flagship Retail Location
covered with prints of diamond cut jaws –
their pale milk skin and crescent eyes.
Slide each shirt, hanging on the rack:
one, by one, by one, by one;
and try to look behind the vinyl wallpaper
that must be set, on something secret.
Everyone around only takes notice
to this season’s sensational sale:
blue poly-blend what-nots and who-cares.
Or you arrive red-eyed, jet lagged slobber
staining your collar, you –
waking to the 10pm rush of customers
here to 宵夜in this
laboratory lit noodle house.
And 三叔, with his chin resting on bored hands
leans towards the register, begins to say
芥蘭魷魚 、老細replies: 芥蘭魷魚
兩碗牛筋麵 、老細 replies: 兩碗牛筋麵。
This operatic cadence, sung to an audience of none、
announcements to the blank faced chef
tossing steam and noodles、
ladling tendon、scooping soup
the 功夫of 宵夜。
And you sink into the 魷魚、
suck the salt from the tentacle’s cups
–it’s swollen rehydrated body.
I remember walking here,
when I was nine,
and the teahouse – the wet market,
the chirping birds in the cages,
next to the dim sum.
The monsoon that fall,
my yellow gumboots.