my father loves me best at the dim sum table

By Sabrina E. Siew

we sit opposite each other, a Sunday tradition.
the chrysanthemums pushed down in hot water,

like the knees of his tar-haired child on American soil.
only one teacup quiet on tablecloth, he doesn’t ask for more,

but orders my bing seoi before I can speak. here,
I am little, the lazy susan my cradle. it holds me,

eyelids half-closed. the warmth from the xiaolong bao,
a cloud-filled blanket with chives. when he orders

another, it tucks me in. he doesn’t notice the silver
strands pleated against my back, forehead tanner.

his own dotted like caught tea leaves on china, ignored.
for him, time doesn’t move at the dim sum table.

bamboo steamers hide ham sui gok and banana leaves.
sik fan la! I repeat the words back. they stumble

over my teeth, my tongue tripping them, falling face first.
the mistakes slip through before he can hear. the mimic

makes his lips crack upward. it’s not right, but I can do no wrong.
plucking with shaved wood, he tells me, quietly, a tale.

on birthdays, nei nei would gift us lo bak go filled cloths. Sweating
under the Southeast sun, I ate my share under jackfruit trees.

the carts clank us back to Chicago, the aunties shouting
the dish for grubby fingers. it breaks the ancestry,

a forgotten childhood, his eyes historic. when we finish,
he thrusts takeout boxes into my hands. a staple for days to come

I’ll live off of shrimp and words
he leaves me at the dim sum table.

Sabrina E. Siew is a Midwest-raised, San Francisco-living creative with a deep appreciation for the ocean, old friends, and sparkling fruit drinks. Born into a noisy Malaysian Chinese American family, she writes poems, prose, and postcards.