three poems

by Dorothy Chan

Year of the Pig

A white woman on the Internet gives her two cents
on the Chinese Zodiac and comes to the conclusion

that if there’s a Year of the Horse, then there should
be a Year of the Unicorn, and sure lady, this calendar

that’s existed since the Han Dynasty, also known as
the golden age of China, can totally be customized

to suit your own white lady needs and desires, like
when you ask for an extra pump of caramel in your

seasonal latte or when you’re shopping in the junior’s
department, and there’s a station for you to bedazzle

and pin and patch your denim—and I hope you know
that you’re getting on my nerves here, lady, treading

on sacred territory, like between the ages of five and
fourteen when my parents and I would visit Chinatown

in Philadelphia or Flushing, so that my father could buy
his zodiac books, our futures and fortunes and trials

and tribulations all based on one of twelve animals, my
mother a rabbit, my father a tiger, my brother and I both

snakes—all determined by astrologers, and no, I’m not
superstitious, but there’s just something about my story

as a snake that gets me, the way my father warns me not
to get too cocky or I’ll have a bad fortune, and isn’t it

funny how snakes actually aren’t compatible with
tigers, even in friendship, but I love how my Tiger Dad

reads my fortune every year, and I’m reminded of how
the family fortune teller once said that my father and I

are symbols of each other, maybe even mirrors, and yes,
my mother and I are closer in life, but in my dreams,

 

whenever I’m on a mission, it’s always my father that
I say goodbye to last, because he always says the right

thing, and I think it’s a generational difference, the way
he’s been through too many tough times to count, like

his childhood years, as my mother tells me, when he was
thrown from boarding school to boarding

school across Asia, and on weekends, my father waited
for his mother to visit, and she never showed, and in

my dreams, it’s always my father I say goodbye to last,
because we’re always connected, like that time in

Hong Kong when one of my aunts pointed at me,
telling my parents that it’d serve me well to be a little

dumber, a little less foul-mouthed, so that the right man
would marry me, and my father took my hand, stormed

out, and we went down the street to McDonald’s,
eating burgers in silence, until he told me the story

of how as a young man, he won a gold pen in this exact
McDonald’s, and I always wonder about my father as

a young man, long before he met my mother. And now
in Las Vegas, my father tells me about my year ahead,

once again warning me not to get too cocky, and I look
around the home: the gold-plate snake my grandfather

gave me, and how in the original tale, the snake jumps
in front of the horse, coming in sixth place, and yes,

I’m a little cunning, a little seductive, and I look at
the Year of the Pig calendar in red and gold, the lucky

colors of my culture, and I remember the golden dragon
and phoenix in Chinatown restaurants, or how when

I’m having a tough year, my mom and dad tell me to
wear a red bracelet—a little extra luck, a little courage.

 

Triple Sonnet for Yumminess

He calls me yummy, but I just want to be left
alone, like how if you’re in Tokyo craving
some alone time with pancakes and pudding
and cheese mousse or a latte with hippo art,
they’ve got the café for your party of one—
and that’s what I call good service when
they place a stuffed animal to sit across from
you, letting you dine in peace on chocolate
fondue with marshmallow hearts—and honey,
you’re never all alone, but you are left alone,
which is probably the single-most precious gift
girls everywhere could ever get, not “Hello,
is this seat taken?” or “Do you come here often?”
but the time to eat in peace, no entertainment,

no date. And he calls me yummy, and sure,
he’s sexy as hell, but sometimes I just need to be
left alone, and sometimes, a table for one feels
like the best damn idea in the world, like that time
in Singapore I was craving crawfish spaghetti
all alone in a family restaurant filled with carousel
decorations, and don’t ever stop your childlike
wonder, and what a sight to have all this pasta
and seafood to devour without anyone looking,
well, without anyone I’ll never see again in my life
looking, without the need to act like a lady, and
I remember five-year-old me talking back to my dad,
who told me I had to “act like a lady,” but really,
why even bother when we’re all hungry inside,

and who cares if you want to devour all the time,
and oh, the opening scene of You Can’t Have
Everything when Alice Faye stares at spaghetti
being cooked, standing out in the cold, outside
the Italian restaurant, and she can’t take it anymore
and goes inside and chows down on two whole
plates of the special without even paying, making
Don Ameche fall in love with her on the spot,
because who wouldn’t, and really, what a woman,
and look at her devour. And he calls me yummy,
but I just want to be left alone, because one really is

the best number, like finishing in first place or
eating the last dumpling or reading “You’re my one
and only” in a card, signed with a heart, and oh,
I’ve got to admit
he’s yummy, isn’t he.

 

Triple Sonnet for Categories of Porn

What we have is a category of porn, Lover #4
says after phone sex, as if I don’t already know
about the clichés of older white man x young
Asian woman pairings, but it’s just grosser when
it’s said aloud, in the same way your parents
probably subconsciously know about all the bad
girl things you do, like keeping secret stashes
or jerking off to a long-distance lover at night,
after pouring yourself two glasses of bourbon
and eating some chips and applying lip gloss, like
in the movies when the femme fatale orders
two dirty martinis and her date assumes one’s
for him, and she says, “You’d like one too?”
And there’s no sense in saying aloud that we’re

a category of porn, because I’m not a product
to be sold and bought, like a toy you flock to LA
for a little 11:50 PM fun fucking in your hotel
with a dreamboat who should be in the movies,
but that’s such a generic way to describe any
yummy man with that twinkle in his eye and one
blond curl that he just can’t get out of his face—
and have you ever made love on the highest floor
of a luxury hotel, curtains open, the pool and
water show down below ready to burst, wondering
if a helicopter or window cleaner is going to
drop by at any minute, and bam, you’ve now got
a free audience. Do you like the rush of getting
caught, putting your lust on display for the world

to see, and look, palm trees below and it’s hot
here, hotter outside, hot outside, hotter here, and
I get it, recording is ecstasy, like making love
to someone you’re really into, and being able
to watch exactly what you’re doing exactly as
you’re doing it, and if only we could have screens
everywhere, like in a home of Tomorrow Land
with glass everywhere, a zen garden with koi pond,
and mirrors, mirrors, glorious mirrors everywhere
from the ceiling to my face, but no, that’s actually
a little too much, and let’s stay in this moment

on the highest floor of this hotel in Vegas, and no,
don’t you dare call me a category of porn, but
I am a freak, my face on yours—a gorgeous freak.

Dorothy Chan is the author of Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, March 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She is a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University, a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, The Cincinnati Review, Quarterly West, The Offing, and elsewhere. Chan is the former Editor of The Southeast Review and Poetry Editor of Hobart. Starting in Fall 2019, she will be an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com

Artwork by: Anderson Miranda