This sonnet is the first I wrote of a triptych of sonnets exploring the relationship between parental abuse and food, with eating habits becoming a direct reflection of familial structures and a means of filling in the unspoken gaps of personal relationships. The idea for this poem came to me after I had genuinely eaten the best crayfish of my life in my grandparent’s backyard cookout, only to learn that the man who made the crayfish was an abusive father with a young daughter terrified of his voice. Despite understanding her on a personal level, I could not bring myself to stop eating the crayfish or to stop asking him for more.
At the cookout past dusk the man who beat his daughter
within an inch of her life is serving the World’s Best
Crayfish in a Bucket. We drain butter & brine
from the carapace, think of delicious creatures sweetened
by the belt. the rumen braised by a mother who won’t speak
to her son, the silk snapper’s mouth gaping with boyish
guilt. Our father, soaking squid in shacha before turning
its body on the spit, selling stories of barbecues in America.
He always leaves out the best part: the night before, his knuckles
browning old bruises, practice for the veal he would tenderize
the next day. Here in the chorus of cicadas, we break bread
in place of daughters, search for God in the backhand
that feeds us. Every dish on the table: an apology he failed
to control. Here. Eat. Savor this death I’ve spared you.
Mimi Yang currently resides in Shanghai, but she has lived in Boston and Montreal. Her work has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and the UK Poetry Society, and appears or is forthcoming in Palette Poetry, BOOTH, The Margins, and elsewhere.