Tom Fearon

Professional communicator in Canberra

Ode to the Ill-Fated Banquet

May 23, 2013

By Tom Fearon

He landed in Guangzhou one hot afternoon
to seal his ailing company's merger.
He'd wine and dine a Chinese tycoon
hoping to take their cooperation further.

He did his homework, or so he thought,
at Cantonese restaurants in Connecticut.
But little did he know, for he hadn't been taught
about China's complex dining etiquette.

His stomach grumbled before the culinary binge
when a fish arrived marinated in spice.
But suddenly his host appeared to cringe
at the sight of upright chopsticks in rice.

Business was discussed over dish after dish
as the host loudly cleared his throat.
Our foreign friend had turned over the fish
and unwillingly capsized the boat.

Another golden rule broken by the Yankee
was tapping his bowl with a spoon.
This deed made his Chinese cohort cranky
and cast the other as a begging buffoon.

Sensing he needed to extend a kowtow
he filled his host's glass with warm beer.
"Here's to our future," he blurted over Tsingtao,
clinking his glass far too high in the "cheers."

A roasted suckling pig was next to be plundered
with the tycoon doling portions on both plates.
"Does he think I'm a baby?" the American wondered
writing it off as an innocent mistake.

The guest ordered some tea from a fine selection
as talks focused on the acquisition.
But the teapot's spout pointed in his host's direction
in yet another blow to Chinese dining tradition.

The table was gripped by an awkward chill
when the host hissed at a waiter "Maidan!"
Insisting the pair split the bill
the guest smiled like they'd just had great fun.

They parted ways the following day,
the foreigner picked up by a car.
There'd be no takeover, the tycoon was sorry to say,
without alluding to those myriad faux pas.

This poem was published by the Global Times and The Anthill.