Food Poem- Chinese Restaurant by David Shumate

This poem beautifully describes how a good meal under the care of a harmonious family can dissolve arguments. My favorite part is “after dinner we sat in the comfort of their silence.” We should all have “after argument” rituals and places that offer comforting silence. As long as we don’t eat our anger, I love the idea of food as a form of conflict resolution.

After an argument, my family always dined at the Chinese
restaurant. Something about the Orient washed the bitterness
away. Like a riverbank where you rest for awhile. The owner
bowed as we entered. The face of one who had seen too much.
A revolution. The torture of loved ones. Horrors he would never
reveal. His wife ushered us to our table. Her steps smaller than
ours. The younger daughter brought us tea. The older one took
our orders in perfect English. Each year her beauty was more
delicate than before. Sometimes we were the only customers
and they smiled from afar as we ate duck and shrimp with our
chopsticks. After dinner we sat in the comfort of their silence.
My brother told a joke. My mother folded a napkin into the shape
of a bird. My sister broke open our cookies and read our fortunes
aloud. As we left, my father always shook the old man’s hand.

“Chinese Restaurant” by David Shumate from The Floating Bridge. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008.

From the Writer’s Almanac


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