We went to either the Canton Grill
or the Chinese Village, both of them
on 82nd among the car lots
and discount stores and small nests
of people waiting hopelessly
for the bus. I preferred the Canton
for its black and bright red sign
with the dragon leaping out of it
sneezing little pillows of smoke.
And inside, the beautiful green
half-shell booths, glittery brass encrusted
lamps swinging above them.
What would I have?
Sweet and sour?
Chow mein with little wagon wheel shaped
slices of okra and those crinkly noodles
my father called deep fried worms?
Among such succulence, what did it matter?
We could eat ‘til we were glad and full, the whole
family sighing with the pleasure of it.
And then the tea!
All of this for about six bucks, total,
my father, for that once-in-a-while, feeling
flush in the glow of our happy faces
and asking me, “How you doing, son?”
Fine, Dad. Great, really, in the light
of that place, almost tasting
the salt and bean paste and molasses, nearly
hearing the sound of the car door
opening before we climbed in together
and drove and drove
though we hadn’t far to go.
Christopher Howell has published ten collections of poems, most recently Gaze (Milkweed Editions, 2012), and Dreamless and Possible: poems New & Selected (University of Washington Press, 2010). He has received three Pushcart Prizes, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a fellowship from the Washington Artist Trust. He has also been honored with the Stanley W. Lindberg Award for Editorial Excellence, and has twice won the Washington State Book Award. Since 1996 he has taught at Eastern Washington University’s Inland NW Center for Writers. He lives in Spokane.