“Recipe for Boys Named Stanford, Duke, and Berkeley” by Dorothy Chan

I like boys who are named after prestigious schools:
            Stanford, Duke, Berkeley, or maybe even Yale,
if your parents are super explicit about your dreams,
            and let’s go bulldog, bulldog, bulldog—I think back to
three-year-old me wearing a UCLA t-shirt, gazing into
            a mirror in my family’s Hong Kong penthouse, from
my father’s hard-earned-self-made-salt-of-the-earth
            money, it’s 1993, and I hear my older brother crying
to my father, in the other room, over his poor grades,
            and before you know it, it’s one year later, and we’re on
a plane to America, and my brother finishes high school
            in Pennsylvania, because doctors and engineers aren’t
made from poor grades, and my father gave it all up:
            the home with a view in Kowloon, the car, the job—
my mother’s happiness—all for my brother to have a future,
            and I like boys who are named after prestigious schools: 
Stanford, Duke, Berkeley, and you know it, Yale,
            because when you’re a child of Chinese parents
who moved to America for you, it’s Ivy League
            or else, and I think of my father who grew up eating
soy sauce on days old rice, looking out the window: 
            Hong Kong in the '50s, his game of watching the cars
drive past and writing down their license plates, 
            adding them up, and when I’m five, I start spending
my summers learning advanced math when my father’s 
            at work, my mother’s at home teaching me instead of
going to the pool, and back in Hong Kong in the '50s,
            my father looks out the window and his pet goose arrives,
and in PA in the '90s, my parents and I spend Saturdays
            at the park feeding the ducks, then going home to
my mother’s turnip cakes as an afternoon snack:
            my brother prefers them boiled and I prefer them fried,
                          Hong Kong dim sum style: sauté
                          your preserved meat, black mushroom,
                          and half of your dried shrimps 
                          with two tablespoons of oil. Skin turnips,
                          wash, and shred. Add a cup of water to cook
                          for twenty minutes as turnips tender. Mix cornflour
                          and rice flour with three cups of water
                          (including water where the turnips were cooked).
                          Mix turnip, seasoning, preserved meat, 
                          black mushroom, dried shrimps, rice flour and cornflour.
                          Keep stirring while cooking until the mixture turns
                          into a paste. Pour paste into a greased bowl
                          and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with dried shrimps
                          and steam for an hour. Add parsley and spring onion
                          and steam for another two minutes. 
                          Slice when cool and serve. Enjoy. 
And how I enjoyed those Saturdays of sitting in boats
            at the park, ducks swimming after us, after our bread,
my mother and father talking in Cantonese, 
            reminiscing on times when neither one of them
could boil water, reminiscing on the time they first
            moved to America, thinking peanut butter and jelly
was some gourmet dish, and I like boys who are named
            after prestigious schools: Stanford, Duke, Berkeley,
and of course, Yale, because my father still has
            those photos of toddler me in Hong Kong, wearing
my UCLA t-shirt in our Kowloon penthouse,
            drawing and stamping on the walls, throwing
plastic toys against the window, and I always wonder
            what would have been if we had never left: the missed
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trips to the park
            and the taste of Hong Kong in a turnip cake in PA. 

Bio: Dorothy Chan is the author of Chinese Girl Strikes Back (Spork Press, forthcoming 2021), Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She is a two-time Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship finalist, a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for Revenge of the Asian Woman, and a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University. Her work has appeared in POETRYThe American Poetry ReviewAcademy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Poetry Editor of Hobart, Book Review Co-Editor of Pleiades, and Founding Editor and Editor in Chief of Honey Literary. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com

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