Wong’s Café

by Janet Wong

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle SchoolMy grandparents own a restaurant,
Wong’s Café: Vermont and 8th.
Jingle, jangle
do you hear the quarters in my apron pocket?
I take the orders and collect the tips.

Mr. Albert Bell (Mr. Beef Fried Rice)
and Mrs. Bell (his very pretty wife)
used to come here now and then.
But Al Bell’s wife died a month ago.
And now he’s here every single night.

Same time: tick tock, 6 o’clock on the dot.
Beef fried rice and a real good tip—
no jingle, jangling. Dollar bills, crisp dollar bills.

My grandmother (my PoPo) found out
that Al Bell was planning to stay at home
and eat a TV dinner, all by himself,
alone on Thanksgiving night.
She didn’t want him home alone,
so she told him she’d never serve him again
if he didn’t come and eat at our house.
Ding dong! There he is!

I open the door. He follows me.
And then I turn around and see
Al Bell’s eyes pop out of his head
and he says he can’t believe the stuff —
(stuff an all-American family would eat):
turkey and dressing, biscuits and yams,
cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie.

And just for him: a bowl of rice.

Copyright © 2013 Janet WongFrom The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School. Reprinted by permission of the author.

About The Author

Children's Author Janet WongJanet S. Wong was born in Los Angeles, and grew up in Southern and Northern California. As part of her undergraduate program at UCLA, she spent her junior year in France, studying art history at the Université de Bordeaux. When she returned from France, Janet founded the UCLA Immigrant Children’s Art Project, a program focused on teaching refugee children to express themselves through art.

After graduating from UCLA, summa cum laude, with a B.A. in History and College Honors, Janet then obtained her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was a director of the Yale Law and Technology Association and worked for New Haven Legal Aid. After practicing corporate and labor law for a few years for GTE and Universal Studios Hollywood, she made a dramatic career change—choosing to write for young people instead. Her successful switch from law to children’s literature has been the subject of several articles and television programs, most notably an O Magazine article, a “Remembering Your Spirit” segment on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and the Fine Living Channel’s “Radical Sabbatical.”

Janet’s poems and stories have been featured in many textbooks and anthologies, and also in some more unusual venues. Poems from Behind the Wheel have been performed on a car-talk radio show. “Albert J. Bell” from A Suitcase of Seaweed was selected to appear on 5,000 subway and bus posters as part of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority’s “Poetry in Motion” program, and was later highlighted on the Hallmark Channel’s “New Morning” show. And, in April 2003, Janet was one of five children’s authors invited to read at The White House Easter Egg Roll.

Janet and her books have received numerous awards and honors, such as the International Reading Association’s “Celebrate Literacy Award” for exemplary service in the promotion of literacy, and the prestigious Stone Center Recognition of Merit, given by the Claremont Graduate School. Janet also has been appointed to two terms on the Commission on Literature of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Janet currently resides near Princeton, NJ, with her husband Glenn and her son Andrew.

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2 responses to “Wong’s Café”

  1. Linda says:

    Every time I read this poem, I love it more and more! Poems that tell a story are always my favorite!

  2. This is such a wonderful poem, and perfect for Thanksgiving week. I love the way Janet brings this scene and its cultural details to life. Family is what we make it and where we find it :>)

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