My dream of America
is like da nin louh
with people of all persuasions and tastes
sitting sown around a common pot
chopsticks and basket scoops here and there
some cooling squid and others beef
some tofu or watercress
all in one broth
like a stew that really isn’t
as each one chooses what he wishes to eat
only that the pot and fire are shared
along with the good company
and the sweet soup
spooned out at the end of the meal. (pg 322-323)
I found this poem very interesting considering the common epithet that America is a melting pot. Although many have considered the verity of that epithet, it is still relevant considering the subject of this poem.
The poet’s thoughts are on his dream or conception of America and its very interesting what his thoughts are. He thinks of America as a “da bin louh” or hot pot where “people of all persuasions and tastes/ sitting down around a common pot” (lines 2-3). This is a picture of unity despite differences. Is this really what America is like? I think we tend socialize with those who have the same worldviews and likes although we do in many cases live or interact with others whose worldviews are different.
It is also interesting to note that his thought of what is in the pot is quite different than one might expect since he is talking about America. He mentions “chopsticks and basket scoops here and there/ some cooking squid and others beef/ some tofu or watercress” (lines 5-7). These are all Chinese food items or culinary utensils. He implants his Chinese tastes on America. Perhaps this is all he knows and so he implants his Chinese metaphors on America. This isn’t really a true melting pot then. A melting pot might metaphorically have pasta, hamburger, potatoes, okra, pork, and other things such as that.
The line about all being in one broth and being “like a stew that really isn’t/ as each one chooses what he wishes to eat” is quite interesting (lines 9-10). This goes back to the idea that we work and live alongside those who aren’t exactly like us; we can’t have everything the way we want it. This line in the poem could be a reaction to the fact that immigrants aren’t always looked upon here in America with loving or welcoming eyes. They come to gain freedom and live better lives but they haven’t always been welcome or the favored ingredient in the pot. However, the important part is the concluding lines, “only that the pot and fire are shared/ along with good company/ and the sweet soup is spooned out at the end of the meal” (lines 11-14). To the poet, the most important thing in living in America, or perhaps even being American, is that everyone should get along and share in our differences. It is so interesting to me that this poem, while speaking of dreams of America, uses Chinese culinary imagery to symbolize America. It just seems so ironic.