Everything I eat in Malaysia
sticks to my back teeth
as if to brand me,
say I’ve finally tasted travel—
the swallowing heat of the East
its foreign fishes, steaming meats.
The glued-in food others me.
Tells me I’m not used to chewing,
the textures, the ritual of it all.
I watch children pop plump dumplings
into their cheeks and know mine
will never receive them so easily –
I eat and learn and sustain
but still I know that my mouth
belongs to a different place.