Five Poems of Smell or Taste by Yuan Changming

At the Tongue Tip

Bonito
                                                                        Kimchi
        Bresaola
                          Greek cheese
    Yunnan Tuotea
                                                                        Moët & Chandon
Etc, the like, &….

[Not unlike Li Bo’s poetry
Beethoven’s music
Da Vinci’s painting
Shakespeare’s plays]         

Each an hourglass
         To keep time flowing, each is
A stored bottle of champagne
        (That must be)                                        Regularly 
        Turned upside down
In an obscure corner of history,    to thicken the flavor

 

In the Year of the Rooster

This is not really Chinese zodiac
But born in a year of the rooster last century
I was fated to crow aloud to summon 
The first morning glows above the

Rice-fields, pecking here and there
For a seed or a pebble bit close
To my grandma’s straw-roofed
Cottage, ready to put up a chicken fight

With my fleshy crown standing up straight
But never able to fly higher than a broken
Fence, since my body was winged
With more fat than feathers

Only after I died did I manage to travel afar
To an exotic land, when my naked being
Was minced and served for a minor course
In a recyclable plate as in this little poem

 

Pidan, or Century Eggs

According to CNN iReporters, century eggs are one of the most challenging foods they have come across on their travels.

Often served with pickled ginger
As a pungent appetizer
Century eggs have been popular
Among all adult Chinese
For centuries and centuries
Though to their children they taste
More archaic, more rotten
Than they actually sound

Having been preserved in clay
For longer than an old season, these
Devil-cooked black eggs are
Readily welcome
In my native country
Where the older are always better
Mixed black is more attractive than pure white
Where what is ugly
Eerie, stinking
Can be cool, fresh & above all
Damned delicious

 

chi: Insight into Chinese Civilization

Their subtlest art is cuisine
Their most developed industry is food processing
Their typical greeting is: have you eaten yet?
Their most significant social gathering is a dinner party

Their happiest moment is when they enjoy foods
Their last thing to do upon death is to eat what they’ve always wanted
Their most prosperous business is restauranting
Their best place for decision making is around a dinner table
Their most courageous thing to do is to be the first to taste something
Their most advanced knowledge is about whatever is edible.
Their proudest experience is they have eaten something you cannot even imagine
Their key word in describing a social event or interaction is eating

                                        Of all ethnic groups in the human world
             In every corner of a populated place in this planet
They are most creative, most adventurous, most attentive, most passionate
               Most efficient, most quality-minded, most aesthetic, most civilized
                                            Whenever it comes to cooking or consuming foods

 

Corn, Sweet Core

A whole body of teeth
Nothing but teeth

To chew the passing summer

We bite off from you
All the pearl-like memories
Tinged with sunlight

A hard but juicy kiss

 

—About the Author—

Yuan Changming published monographs on translation before leaving his native country. Currently, Yuan edits Poetry Pacific with Allen  Qing Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations  & publications in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17) & BestNewPoemsOnline, among nearly 1,600 others across 43 countries.