Food Poetry: Big Bowl

The intersection of food and poetry is a natural one: both are subjects that concern themselves with experience, memory, sense, and self. In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ve asked some of our favorite poets from around the world to share works—each poem in print for the first time overall or in English—that fuse the poetic with the edible.

Big Bowl

by Zhang Er

routines of solace


lift up the curtain when entering


on the dinner table, a flowery plastic sheet.


door to home, always open, the wallpaper always white


air flowing in through the suspended ceiling


matching the big bowl, the substance
bottom line solid

       is clear at one glance:  

beaten egg, bean curd, shredded meat,
black mushrooms, bean noodles


Squatting, Uncle in-law with bowl


Laughing, he tells the story of how the
Water Conservancy Bureau
Went about building a high-rise . . .


Eaten from, from the bed room
to the living room, eaten from
in the bed next to bed that is next to the sofa:

the big bowl is not a symbol.


Grandma's mysterious trick:
The more you eat, the deeper the bowl

Could you possibly be
still hungry?


Heaven and earth, linked by a slurp.


Eat till you occasionally lift your head.


Eat till you see the healing spices of the sun
pouring down over all,

becoming Aunt in-law's cotton jacket
with its sparkling flowers.

Zhang Er was born in Beijing and now lives in Olympia, Washington. In addition to having written four volumes of poetry, she is coeditor of Another Kind of Nation: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Talisman House, 2007). Her most recent collection of verse in English translation is So Translating Rivers and Cities (Zephyr Press, 2007).

Translated from Chinese by Joseph Donahue with the author.


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