Fiona Tinwei Lam — Ode to Chopsticks

Poet name: Fiona Tinwei Lam Poem title: Ode to chopsticks Poem: Grandfather sets the bowl full of marbles before me. I pick up the chopsticks and hover, then picture my hand as a heron with a long, long beak plunging down to pluck each orb, lift it through air and held breath in a tremulous trip toward the saucer. Five thousand years of evolution in hand: branches honed to stir ancient cauldrons become sleek batons of ivory, gold or jade adorning an aristocrat’s table. With their deft dance and dip, more adroit than a fork. Twin acrobats poised to hoist choice morsels— crisp shard of duck skin, noodle strands, fish cheeks, single green pea. Let your elders lead, he tells me, Never point your chopsticks at a guest. Never spear your food like a fisherman. Don’t tap the side of your bowl like a beggar. Keep them by the plate when you rest or across the bowl at meal’s end. But never upright like incense burning in an urn for the dead. While he watches, stiff bamboo grows nimble. One by one each small glassy planet arcs up then lands with a clink! The bowl gleams, empty. He nods. End of poem. Credits: Copyright © Fiona Tinwei Lam Originally published in The New Quarterly (Fall 2017), winner of the Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest 2017, and in Odes & Laments (Caitlin Press, 2019) Fiona Tinwei Lam’s most recent collection of poetry, Odes & Laments (inspired by Pablo Neruda's Odes to Ordinary Things) celebrates the overlooked wonder and beauty in the everyday, while lamenting plastic pollution and global warming. She has authored two previous poetry books, a children’s book, edited The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems on Facing Cancer, and co-edited Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups & Downs of Marriage. Lam won The New Quarterly’s Nick Blatchford Prize and was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Her work appears in more than thirty anthologies, including The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English: The Tenth Anniversary Edition and Forcefield: 77 Women Poets of BC. Her poetry videos have screened at festivals locally and internationally.