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?