THE WORLD’S BEST BEEF LAMIAN
this morning i walked into the slum-streets of
Shenzhen in my black combat boots and into a
shop with a faded green sign that supposedly sold
the world’s best beef lamian at just ten yuan a bowl.
i thought the pretty girl who brought me my food looked my age
or a little younger but then decided otherwise because school
hasn’t let out yet for kids her—my—age yet and there
could be no reason why she,
a girl like me, wouldn’t be at school.
i slurped my noodles (definitely not the world’s best beef noodles)
as the plump store manager told the girl to clear away dirty
plates on the table next to mine.
XiaoMei, scrub that table with a cloth, not tissues
XiaoMei, come take this customer’s order
XiaoMei, hurry up, what do you think you’re doing, sitting down?
* * *
When i finished my noodles XiaoMei took my bowl with
cracked brown hands and told me she liked my shoes.
i said thank you and looked at her shoes—a pair of off-brand
converse i see the seventh-grade girls wearing at my school.
Oh, i said, Oh. I like your shoes too.
The world’s best beef lamian sits uncomfortably in my
stomach as dirty knock-off converse shoes shuffle around
chipped floor tiles collecting ten yuan bills and wooden chopsticks.
—from 2018 Rattle Young Poets Anthology