A Loss for Words

By Eric K. Taylor

November 11, 2019

A Loss for Words

This Chinese bowl, smooth in my hands, white as bone, entwined with blue dragons, reminds me of my friend Joyce’s mom. Faizai she’d christened me. Fatso. (The Cantonese is more affectionate than its English equivalent.) Always calling “Ha-llo, Ha-llo.” Her only English word I think, always called loudly and twice to make sure it worked, her solitary front tooth beaming in her crinked grin. Always slipping more of her latest delicacies onto my plate.

One afternoon, a lifetime ago, I’m barely in the door. Joyce’s mother grins and slips to the kitchen. “You know,” Joyce whispers, “a chicken has only two feet.” This I knew. Why tell me this? “Getting one’s an honor.” Joyce nods. “My mother made soup. Insisted on saving one foot just for you.”

Ah. An honor. I bite my lip. A cheery “Ha-llo, Ha-llo” echoes from the kitchen. Joyce’s mother appears, hands bearing the steaming dragon bowl, this bowl now in my hands. Scents of garlic. Scallions. The chicken foot, three large toes and spur splayed wide. Pale flabby skin. I try not to ponder where this foot had walked. I sit. Blue and white dragon bowl before me, ceramic spoon in hand, the chicken foot floating like a dead fish. I slurp. Bite at a joint. Suck soggy skin from little bones. Swallow. “M’goi.” I say. “Thank you.” Almost my only Cantonese.

It’s twenty years since she passed. As for me, thirty years later, I hold this bowl, still at a loss for words.


Eric K. Taylor holds an MFA in writing from VCFA. He teaches, writes creative nonfiction and poetry, and writes books for children.


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