A Place at the Dining Table
BY SOPHIE KUAH
White porcelain bowls with intricate
blue-lined designs are staples here.
This long, seemingly unending wooden table
filled with Women from our past and present.
My father’s side is on the right,
my mother’s on the left.
We share a meal.
Oh no, this is no expensive, high-end banquet.
These are the meals of our homes.
Myanmar and more.
Dishes loaded with soy-glazed melty char siu,
smoky charred char quay teow,
warming bak kut teh,
buttery nasi lemak glide along the table,
gently passed from hand to hand.
Layers of chatter fill my ear,
and though I cannot understand much of it,
a grin forms on my face.
A bowl brimming with courage,
a platter boundless with joy.
Endless love and care melt on my tongue
like egg tarts, creamy and sweet.
The core traits of these extraordinary
Women are passed from one hand to the other,
from the older generations to the future.
Each Woman brings something new to this table—
a unique dish packed with flavours of her soul and story.
we are passed beautiful things,
the soup that nourishes our souls,
and we accept it with gratitude.
Everyone wants a helping, but unluckily,
our portions cannot be equal.
Paw Paw’s delicate hands spoon out only a bite of the
so my mother can have more,
so I can have plenty.
we receive a spoonful of rot,
the obstacles that strive to run us dry till we submit.
Receiving a spoonful of spoilage is simply the luck of the draw.
My eyes roam the table in wonder.
I have a plate abundant with fortune and love,
but bare spots linger on Mah Mah’s plate since
She insists on giving her best shares to us.
Oh, because of Women like these, our hearts are full.
Mah Mah is fed a plate full of spoilage,
Or worse, a life of poverty and starvation may mean
She has nothing to eat at all.
Her nose stings,
and her eyes twitch as She hastily gobbles the plate of rotten goods.
She shines her pearly teeth,
so we do the same,
although her stomach furiously grumbles, crying for more.
Her defiance shields her youngest,
so we will never experience the same sour.
Every Woman belongs to this table,
for She brightens the lives of those who sit around her.
A meal around the dining table is a moment where
time does not separate us,
and stories and food bond us.
A warmth fills my heart like a rich hot pot stew.
Two rows travel along and along this dining table,
and despite a hundred language barriers,
Every smile across the table lets me know
I belong in this chair.
Oh, to become as
As the Women I am blessed to sit among.