the restourist

my cousin answers our waitress
in english instead of vietnamese

even though he is
more fluent than me

& suddenly the clay pot turns
cold in front of us.

he doesn’t eat fish anyway, so it’s okay,
but i still have to stare at the eyeballs

& explain why this boy
chose to replace pepper

with salt. my best guess is
maybe he didn’t get a good

look at the woman
serving him

or perhaps for a second,
forgot where he was:

a place where authenticity
is not asked to be proven.

my cousin talks fast & eats
slow for the rest of the meal.

when he goes to wash
garlic off his hands,

the fish asks why i lied.
i say it’s cause i couldn’t stomach

oblivion-

how we all knew, except
him, it was a power play.

done for the same reason
nobody likes to hang out with fobs.

i tell her sorry
as a thank you.

as we leave quê hương,
a white family walks in. he doesn’t

notice. here, english is a guest.

Thanh Bui was born in Saigon and raised in Boston and Houston. Her work has appeared in The Sunlight Press, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, FIVE:2:ONE, The Offing, and FreezeRay Poetry. She likes puzzles and remembering.