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Substitutions


Balsamic, for Zhenjiang vinegar.
Letters, for the family gathered.

A Cuisinart, for many hands.
Petty burglars, for warring bands.

A baby's room, for tight quarters.
Passing cars, for neighbors.

Lawn-mower buzzing, for bicycle bells.
Cod fillets, for carp head-to-tail.

Children who overhear the language,
for children who speak the language.

Virginia ham, for Jinhua ham,
and nothing, for the noodle man,

calling as he bears his pole
down alley and street, its baskets full

of pickled mustard, scallions, spice,
minced pork, and a stove he lights

where the customer happens to be,
the balance of hot, sour, salty, sweet,

which decades later you still crave,
a formula he'll take to the grave.


Adrienne Su

New England Review

Volume 38, Number 1 / 2017


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