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"The Rich Eat Three Full Meals" opens with a stark view of poverty versus wealth, measured in terms of meals consumed. The poet, Nguyen Binh Kheim, draws the reader in with this contrast between rich and poor, acknowledging the harsh separation between social classes. Kheim uses amount of food consumed as a poignant metaphor, revealing his point of view that the difference between rich and poor is not just about materialistic goods, but really basic needs--the poor only have "two small bowls;" people are going hungry.
Despite their hunger and suffering due to poverty, Kheim reveals that the poor can still find peace and enjoy "heaven's heaped up favors" by turning to the natural world. Nature, according to the speaker of the poem, is the great equalizer between rich and poor. In the natural world, all are wealthy, enjoying the riches of "the mountains and rivers all around" with a "damask, embroidered, the grass." Both the rich and poor can enjoy the natural world and its many blessings equally.
In this poem, Vietnamese poet Khiem acknowledges that the material differences between the rich and the poor: the rich get enough to eat while the poor get "two small bowls," but the poem aims its critique at materialism. There's more to life than what you own, and much joy and richness to be found in nature, the poet argues. What matters is not your possessions but your state of "peace:"
The rich eat three full meals, the poor two small bowls but peace is what matters.
Peace and "heaven's heaped up favors" are found in the simpler things of life that are readily available. The poet may be poor, but he can satisfy his thirst with a simple drink, "sweet plum tea." If he is hot, he can lie in a shady spot and feel the breeze. He can enjoy the beauty of nature, which is like a painting, surrounded by the vista of "mountains and rivers." His blanket might be grass but he likens it to "damask," a rich material.
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