Magic Mouth

I open a portal in my hand
and I can see my mother across the globe.
For her it is 8 in the morning,
She is all rise and shine and hungry
So she facetimes me as she eats breakfast.

I’ve always known my mother had a magic mouth:
Once as a child, we visited our family in Taiwan.
We went to a hotpot place, and mama made the best broth
I’ve ever tasted with the ingredients they set before us.

Shrimp in the US are trimmed and headless
Legs nonexistent, or tucked neatly in, antennae safely removed.
But there, they are wild, appendages attached, and my dad watched in horror
As she put the whole creature in her mouth,
Suckled the meat from its armor,
And spit out the perfect shell of its exoskeleton.

Dad never really had a stomach for Taiwanese food,
only Taiwanese women.
Even as my brother and I were born
he said let them be white,
and he saw that it was good.
Sometimes he tells me that I look too Chinese
when I make a certain face,
and I wonder if he remembers
that he alone does not lay claim to my blood.

Back at breakfast, she shows me a meal she hasn’t had for months:
Zhu xue gao, bao zi, and chicken neck.
My mama and ama sit side by side
And practice a skill I have yet to learn;
Every time circumstance places a cooked beast before them
They manage to take every bit of meat still clung to the bone,
They find sustenance where a Western mouth
would have already tossed the scraps aside.
And when ama has consumed each shred of blessed flesh
She cracks the bone and eats the marrow.

Life is family-style Chinese meal:
And they get everything they possibly can out of it.

Jasmine C. Bell was a member of the UT Spitshine CUPSI team from 2015-2017, and will coach the 2018 team. She was a Write Bloody chapbook contest finalist in 2017 and has her poetry published or forthcoming in Kweli Journal, Vinyl, and Monstering Magazine.