Contemplating Dumplings


Contemplating Dumplings


I am contemplating parcels of white
contentment, watching them steam

under paper lanterns, their faces trickling
with multiculturalism as they tuck into platefuls

of dumplings and wonton, of noodles that slip
from wooden chopsticks, and I wonder –

if I can beckon the neglected heritage
of my second self, the ancestral half

masked by my name, now piqued
by the rising sharpness of chilli and soy

could I release, with one inspired bite, an Asian-
Australian poem into the lantern-lit night?

A poem of yearning confusion, of desire
for a homeland I never knew, of a journey

from steamer to Sydney hawker-style alleyway
pluming with the spices of my mother’s childhood

a poem plump with meaning that a generation
of schoolkids will be invited to decipher

for their HSC standard English exam, Module A:
Language, Identity and Culture

salivating as they trace the trope of dumplings
which oscillates from the literal to the figurative

as if wobbling between the chopsticks
and the suspicious lips of a table full of gwai lo

those soft parcels of white contentment
now stained by the dark soy of a hybrid identity –

perhaps this will help me in the search
for my own becoming, a third way

to the front of the queue
for another serve of dumplings.


Paul Dawson

Author: Paul Dawson

Paul Dawson's first book of poems, Imagining Winter (IP, 2006) won the national IP Picks Best Poetry Award and his poetry has been anthologized in Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013) and Harbour City Poems: Sydney in Verse 1788-2008 (Puncher & Wattmann, 2009). He was shortlisted for the 2016 Newcastle Poetry Prize and his work appears in a number of journals including Meanjin, Island, Southerly, Westerly, Overland, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry Journal, and Mascara Literary Review. Paul teaches in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales.

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