ISSUE Magazine

Food on The Table by Felice Wong

Food on The Table
In the words of my father


I’ve always put food on the table.
There is always food.
and of that
I am proud.


On our round, transparent
dining room table
it is always me, wife,
daughter, daughter, son
and full circle to me again.

As always,
she sits wedged
between her sister and her mother.

As always,
too far from me.


I make cold jokes.
One daughter always laughs
and I am surprised they’re always
genuine laughs.
The other rolls her eyes
and makes a sarcastic comment.


My daughter blames herself
for her sister’s cuts.
The first time she saw them
she pretended they weren’t there,
as if she didn’t know what they were.
I did not know what they were.
I could never understand why anyone
would do such a thing to themselves.
I put food on the table,
and money in their pockets
as I have always done.


It has been two years
and we thought we had moved on.
On a Tuesday of a New Year
there we were,
sitting on their childhood floor,
trying to soak up what was left
of moving on.


I think about paying taxes.
I think about paying for their small luxuries,
I think about what all this strain does to me.
I think about the possibility
that I may have to bury my child one day.


I have two daughters.
I favour one
but I will always, always
love the other.


You’ve never seen
the child you made and raised,
sitting on the floor
crying and screaming
for no apparent reason
with her wrists bleeding and open as
her sister hugs her
and your wife cries.
You have never heard what a
girl must say to
console her inconsolable sister.


I want to stay.
In some strange universe
or time,
I would have been the firm hands
to hold her,
to know what to tell her,
But I am helpless.
I will never understand.
They expect me to leave it to them.
To leave the room.
I expect myself to leave the room.


I am a breadwinner
but what bread is there
to be won,
when all the birds to feed
are slowly slipping away?


I hugged her tiny, shaking body
and brought her in to
her parents’ bed.
I wanted to stay. I did.
But this bed was too small.
Her sister wouldn’t leave her,
nor would my wife.
And so I wandered downstairs,
aimlessly and thoughtlessly.
Smoking so many cigarettes
waiting for life or death to
take us.


It used to be so easy,
for people back in the day,
to say that
‘a fathers duty was to earn a living.
To feed the family and to survive.’
And when my own drunken father failed
I had took it upon myself to feed my family.
My brothers and my sister.
And now my wife and my children.
I bear them all on my browned and cracking shoulders.


Money seems so petty now
in the wake
of deeper things.


My father,
was pushed out of his bed that night.
And I’m sorry for that.
For he was heroic.
I woke up next to my sister
with my own blankets and pillows.
He loves me so.

He left in the morning.
Off to put food on the table,
and money in our pockets.—

Featured image by Mardiana Sani for ISSUE Magazine

This entry was written by issuemagonline and published on 08/04/2013 at 09:00. It’s filed under Felice Wong, ISSUE11, Poetry, Writings and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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