my mother makes a nemesis out of every dog 

and so, by extension, also the white neighbor

who at least once a month, while walking her dog

will yell to my strolling mother (from the opposite side of the street)

something like how could you be so scared of such a good girl.

what gets my mother most about dogs is the panting, language

she’s certain means hunger, ravenous threat. she prides herself as an expert;

back home in Beijing she, unlike a dog, had never been called a good girl 

just a hungry one gorging herself on cabbage and mantou from the canteen.

all the neighbor had ever wanted to know about “back home” though

was the dog-eating festival she read about on the news. how could you

do that to such lovely, beautiful creatures (the you being not a universal you

but maybe a universal Chinese you). my mother answered you can eat

anything when you’re hungry; just think about any one of those shipwrecks

where the sailors ended up eating each other. once, my mother told the story

of how a dog chased her down because it smelled the food she was bringing 

back for my uncle and her, how she threw half their dinner along the Beijing streets hoping 

the dog would stop. that night, we went as hungry as dogs she said, admitting a kind

of reluctant kinship. but did it get you I asked. she paused. 

thought about it. I guess it must have. dear neighbor, know this: my mother 

barely weighed over one hundred pounds for decades since she got here,

her skinny arms washing dishes and cleaning tables but never allowed

to lift the plate to taste the food. dear neighbor, know this: 

my mother’s hunger followed her from one nation to the next

like a snarling dog. there was nothing lovely, nor beautiful, about it. 

Eric Wang (he/him) is a poet residing in Scarborough, Canada. His work appears in Guernica, Best Canadian Poetry 2023, and elsewhere.