Volume Five, Issue 3

Masaki Takahashi

An Ode To My Chinglish Ending With An Empty Stomach

I spit that Chinglish
                          that Chinese/English it sits
             in my mouth like huǒguō

a fire pot
a communal feast with family and friends
but just like everything that gets translated into English
it waters down in so much meaning
so much flame and so much spice

my Chinglish still grows upright
claiming stake in its roots
even though it has been mimicked
it has been orphaned
it has been lost in translation
it still says “ni hao” from my mother tongue
while it kaleidoscopes with my Midwest rap culture
like “what up doe”
so I am a mix breed with my friends saying
“Yao, nĭ hăo Doe”

my Chinglish is Biggie rapping “Juicy”
Pac screaming “Holler if you hear me”
Yao Ming’s hall of fame speech
dedicated to my first grade ESL teacher
Mrs. Good, who taught me

                                                    English but never
             let Christopher Columbus
                                       kill my Native tongue

she made sure I mastered a language from scratch
molded my broken English into a double-edged sword
the shrapnel of my grammatical errors
were used as katanas
so I learned to write poetry that cut
that bleeds
that speaks so well
that is not timid
that is not docile

there is so much color in my skin
                                       I had to speak clear

there is so much volume
so much bass
it makes you turn your stereotypes down

so I dedicate every poem through the years
to all my Chinese I have left
that I bartered for English

when I want to tell my mother I am doing fine
to unpack my emotions
the way I do for crowds
but I can’t

I don’t have enough Chinese to
unpack my voice box
after never being able to move on
to tell her how I feel
how I am
how I no longer work at that wretched car dealership
how I got a dope job now and I have been eating good
how I have found my way after the divorce
and how I don’t need to ask her about my dad
but I hold back on our conversations

                                       like lǎowài hold on
                                                                 to chopsticks confused and so
                                                    shakey I am

unable to ever put the courage in my mouth
and this is the only time I ever feel like a starving artist
a child trying to get the attention of his mother
some kind of connection during communal dinner
there is still a part of me that is a child
hugging on to memories in the basement

I kept just enough Chinese to tell her xièxie
to show her how much I appreciate this nourishment
because of her
                                       I will never let
                                                    the fire die in this pot
                          With so much food my

Chinglish lies and tells her I am full
And it never tells her what it truly wants

A Review On The Ramen Shop Next Door To My Uncle’s Restaurant.

The family hasn’t been the same since you moved in.
The money has been coming in slower.
My uncle has been drinking more.
His bones been creaking a little louder.
the fan in the kitchen seems to always be buzzing
For someone to come in.
We spend more free time
putting paper bags into plastic bags
Than filling it with food.

We’ve been pinching pennies.
School shopping this year hasn’t been the same.
No shoes with the check.
No new shirts or shorts,
we just didn’t need them this year,
I guess.

You have yet to introduce yourself
but we did try your food.
It doesn’t have the same taste.
My pallet doesn’t tingle with memories.
From your hands, you could never cook any meal
Resembling my childhood.
The teasing,
                          the shame.
When they said our food was made for savages.
Your hands could never comprehend that type of
Cut, the burn from that grease and oil.

The other reviews call you innovative and cultured
But it’s not your culture.
They say your service is great but it has more
Of pilgrims killing the natives feel.
My god, while I can swear our service has that Sunday feel.
Where my aunt fixes a smile on her face
To distract you from her broken English.
They say she can’t get her R’s and L’s right.
But they don’t criticize you for taking
What what is ours for someone else, right?

See you make a business off of another person’s culture.
And you can have whatever excuse you may want.
Call your food fusion. I call it refusing.
When you know nothing about this culture.
Stick the chopsticks vertically, hope your business dies.
My uncle says your food is 太咸

That means it’s too salty
but maybe I am too.

To Love like a Dyson Vacuum

When she and I first moved in together,
she bought a brand spanking new Netgear router from Best Buy
ripped the packaging with excitement to start our new life together.
Plugged it in and wondered why we didn’t have the Internet.

I stopped and told her
we just moved in and we don’t have service yet.
She asked me what I meant and I asked her
where she thought the Internet comes from.
She raised her arms and said,
the air?

I laughed so hard and so loud the same way I loved her.
But I don’t think she really loved that.
So that night she ordered Comcast.

There will always be things I love
that will never love me back.
For example, last night’s Olympic Broil.
Sometimes an extra order of deep fried mushroom
is too good to say no to.
Until I over indulge
forgetting the leftovers, I had at home.
Home, the thing I have always wanted
but now I take for granted.
Cooked meals and dinner conversations
about chores. The dishes left in the sink.
The sink I will feel when these moments pass.
There are just things that I can’t stomach anymore.

There will always be things I love
that will never love me back.
Like getting super drunk off of Long Islands
the night before Thanksgiving
then forgetting I left my credit card at the bar.
Only to realize I’m hung over with no way of getting food.
The way I imbibe leaving things I need behind
We will call it being young,
we will call it wanting different things
we will call it – and I will be left hung up.
leaving me hungry again.

There will always be things I love that will never love me back.
Like my wife when she left.

I was too busy trying to be something.
Too busy working, too busy writing,
too busy to realize the stars in her eyes
were already dead by the time I saw them again.
I’m just a hangman who forgot to spell happiness.
Time, pickpocketed my treasured memories.

I’ve written so many poems about her and set each one on fire
just so I can remember how flames die.

There will always be things I love that will never love me back.
like my Dyson vacuum when it started going up in smoke.
I called my now ex-wife and told her about it.
She asked me if I changed the filter?
I told her it’s a bagless vacuum.
She asked me what happens to the microscopic particles
that are too small to be trapped in side the bag or dust cup.

I raised my arms and said
the air?

Masaki Takahashi: “I am a poet and spoken word artist from Lansing, Michigan, and the founder/host of The Poetry Room Open Mic. I was named one of six community leaders making a change in the Greater Lansing area by Lansing State Journal. Of all of the accomplishments I have in the poetry world, I am the proudest of workshopping with High School students and watching them grow.”

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