The Unseasoned

When, as guests of honor in Vietnam,

we were served dog penis and the testicles

sat on our plates like Venn Diagrams

 

titled Foods We Have in Common – the circles

refusing to overlap – I made it half-

way to the head before I started feeling sick.

 

And when I finally put down my knife

and fork and all the hosts began to cheer,

I wondered if we’d been given the shaft

 

in more ways than one.  The other teachers

kept coming over to buy me shots and pat

me on the back, take photos of the charred,

 

half-eaten penis sulking on my plate.

But it wasn’t just the idea – the concept

that one man’s pet is another man’s pâté –

 

that was difficult to swallow – with no salt

anywhere in sight, the flavor was nearly

as tasteless as my colleagues’ requests

 

for doggy-bags. It was the ordinary,

then – the almost familiar taste on my tongue,

the way the mealy meat looked dinnerly

 

next to the rice and salad – that was so strange.

And as it became more and more plain

that this was not exotic cuisine, but singed

 

genitalia – undeniably penile –

even my determined attempts to

cover it with lettuce felt like pulling

 

the curtain back over Oz. Oh, Toto,

precious little dog, what did we do?

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