Family Dinner

By Priscilla Lee

My mother the hard boned
Chinese woman 23 years
in this country
without bothering to learn
its language
buys lean pork ribs
special order
at the Hop Sang in Chinatown
and cooks dinner
for an extended family
of twenty-five during holidays.

Seated loosely around
the dining table
trying to eat quietly
I am scrubbed down
to skin and bone,
her oldest daughter—
spineless, a headless snake
a woman grandfather says
who should have her tendons
lifted out slowly
by the steel point
of a darning needle
until she writhes.

To my mother
I’m useless
but dangerous,
capable of swallowing
the family whole
into my pelvis
while I sit
waiting for the boyfriend
white and forbidden
to touch our doorbell.

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