Dorothy Chan


I want to be sex on legs,
your thinking man’s porn star
in a home video
that’ll never get leaked,
because I refuse to turn
into a rich blonde girl
in a velour tracksuit and fuzzy top
asking for five minutes
to take a call from a rhinestone
cell phone blinged out,
and you’re not getting me
in a cheongsam or kimono
or chopsticks in my hair
or a silk dragonfly blanket
wrapped around our naked bodies,
bamboo door exposing our shadows,
your Asian-fantasy-Manifest-Destiny-
ending in a hot, hotter, hottest
tub scene, but not all East Asia’s
the same, and it’s a no go
if you can’t get to a woman’s heart,
or know when she eats mooncake,
and not puke at merely the mention
of durian, or learn what provinces
her parents came from,
why they came to America,
why her skin’s so soft
and her eyes so black,
or why she’s always craving
a sampler of dim sum for breakfast
and some Cantonese duck for dinner,
because unlike you,
not everything’s handed to her on a platter.


If I played roller derby, my name would be Yellow Fever,
             knocking out all those white boys from college
                           who used to whisper sweet nothings to me

in Mandarin, trying to seduce through the pure poetry
             of simplified Chinese on hand-delivered letters,
                           and come on, this is the 21st century,

and I’m not here to make friends or be your 4th grade pen pal
             just because you’re lonely after watching tentacle porn
                           for the first time, and you don’t understand real art:

how to sit during tea ceremonies or where to watch
             the best Chinese opera, and how buying a kimono
                           at EPCOT doesn’t qualify for a pass

to Tokyo Fashion Week, and you expect praise, idolatry,
             applause from the entire Chinese population
                           for your summers in Shanghai selling real estate,

working for Daddy, and oh, white boy, how you think every form
             of Asian food is a dumpling, because they’re all
                           so “cute and small,” just like your type of girl

with dark hair and red lips that you want to display as trophies,
             as “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” Japanese collectibles,
                           as vintage dolls from the mainland,

and they’re all interchangeable, and all of this is too good for you,
             so don’t you dare tell me how to pronounce “nigiri”
                           when you can’t even chug sake like a CEO

or tell me where to get the best Hong Kong buffet
             when you can’t stomach red bean and oyster sauce
                           and don’t know the difference between teas

and I don’t have time to help you pick out a soy sauce,
             so just accept the fact that I look great in gold short shorts
                          and will never take you back to my homeland.



My aunt is picking out blouses and I can’t help but stare:
the woman in fishnets and silver heels tries on cocktail outfits:
floral teacup dresses, lace shirts, floor-length skirts
golden, dramatic, matching the length of her glued-on lashes
and cheekbones higher than the Victoria Peak.
Her beau, an Australian Sugar, dandies himself,
taking a top hat off the mannequin, adding in a cane,
playing dress-up: he’s now a flaming-haired flâneur
from Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe—
the all-black outfit, hand over chin, pondering,
lying back while the woman’s the bold one.

The gold digger keeps asking about prices,
though she’s not the one with the wallet. I look at necklaces,
wondering how much money she plans on spending—
maybe after the next couple thousand, she’ll flee this man
and pick up a new one who’s hanging around an overpriced pub:
greasy fingers, mid-life crisis, loser back home,
ready to score big in Asia.
My aunt whispers, “It’s all happy shopping for now.”
I look at this woman, remembering all those Australian
and British men in Singapore night clubs who wanted to wine and
dine me, or that businessman from yesterday’s happy hour
who offered to buy me a red dress,
fly me to an Ivy League ball in Tokyo.
It’s a weird life. But who really holds the power?
Should I have gone off with that man,
taken the dress, seduced him on the dance floor,
make him buy me double shots of whiskey?
No, but I’ll take the weirdness and the power,
and I think back to Manet, how the nude woman
acts so unabashed, like she’s laughing at the viewer,
as my aunt is too busy buying tight sweaters plus a watch for me,
as we’re leaving and the Korean woman tries on
a top hat headband as her dandy admires her head of hair,
both their hats in tow like we’re in Paris at the turn of the century.
Is this the couple of the ages? Who are we anyway?


Dorothy Chan is the author of Chinatown Sonnets, which was selected by Douglas Kearney as the winner of New Delta Review’s 6th Annual Chapbook Contest. She was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship and a 2017 finalist for the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry from Pleiades Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Plume, The Journal, Spillway, Little Patuxent Review, The McNeese Review, and Salt Hill Journal. She is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review. Visit her website at