“Courtesy” by Minjung Yu

Minjung Yu (age 15)


Apparently in China, slurping your noodles
Is a compliment to the chef.

If you put the steaming-hot cords of udon to your lips
And are forced to hastily funnel it into your mouth
With that familiar sucking noise, you don’t have to
Apologize for disrupting the meal or otherwise being improper.

All you have to do is flash a great big grin towards the kitchen
Because the chef will understand your slurps
As a sign that you are enjoying his noodles so much
That you won’t wait for it to cool before shoveling it in.

We’ve made a world where it is rude to accidentally place
Your arms on the table in eagerness to talk to the person opposite,
Where you must remember to smile and greet neighbors with
A simpering kindness that doesn’t have to match
The way you talk behind their back,
Where people are more concerned with prim and proper
Than what lies within that paper shell,
The true, raw philosophies that make us us much more
Than table manners ever will.

And in this mad world where facade triumphs over intention,
It’s nice to find that one exception
Of very properly expressing a great admiration for the chef and his cooking skills
By slurping hot noodles.

from 2018 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Minjung Yu: “I have always been fascinated with the ability of poetry to connect anything to anything. Whether it be as seemingly unoriginal as linking a poem to another piece of writing or as seemingly outlandish as using a poem to connect biology and philosophy, poetry is unparalleled in this unique capability. Thus it has become my conduit for understanding (poetry is my first resort when I am in any sort of existential crisis; sometimes, I even write my way to a solution) and communication (connecting nebulous, incomprehensible emotions to something tangible, relatable, and real).”

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