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Content warning:

First, new blood, the obvious:
Sweets for the stove god,
the stickier the better. Gild
his words with glucose, or run
the risk that he will run his mouth
with nothing less
than the bitter truth about your deeds.
Everyone eats. So many
eat themselves alive.
The least you can do for one day
is pretend, and hope
that where sugar goes,
sweetness will trickle in.

Here we serve fruit
to the Jade Emperor.
Yes, only fruit. His Majesty
is never seen with eyeteeth.
Leave the jade chickens,
snappers like gold junks and cinnabar pigs
to the families petitioning bigger,
brighter fortunes. Their business,
not ours. Our guests provide
enough. Ask for too much and
you might just choke.

Don’t forget bananas
for Datuk Kong. Exchange gold
for gold. They don’t care
where he’s from now, only
what he might bring. No god
will tell you a banana’s too lowly,
too sacred, too unclean
to offer up in-
toxicating ripeness.

Feed the snakes nothing. Nothing
but pure water, and dam the drought.

The back altar’s mighty bodhisattvas
do their best work on vegan fare.
Avoid the five herbs, except for
Ji Gong, who remembers what it’s like
to chase garlic and meat with the ferocity
of a second lover.
Whenever a new restaurant opens,
you tapau food
let him try.

Ration the pork. Not for
its expense, but the sheer power,
the virtue signaled.
The boar bears your final card,
the king’s knock
right at heaven’s door.

Last, young blood, be careful
how and who you feed.
It can all end up
too much, too rich for one
soul to swallow.

May Chong (@maysays on Twitter) is a Malaysian poet and speculative writer, with previous work featured in Eye to the Telescope, Anathema Magazine, Apparition Literary, and Fantasy Magazine. Her poetry has also been nominated twice for the SFPA's Rhysling Award. Away from the keyboard, she enjoys birdwatching, spoken word, video games, and the worst possible puns.
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23 Jan 2023

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