Poems by Dorothy Chan
I Have an Asthma Attack in the Middle of the Night
And I’m reminded of the countless times the high school P.E. teacher would call me slow and force me to keep running, even though I was gagging, throwing up on the pavement. My breath short circuiting, staring up at a clear sky, like they do in the movies, wondering when the simple act of breathing would come back to me. I was called slow. Made an example of. The other kids laughing as they ran past me.
———-I remember being the only Asian girl in the sea of whiteness. No, sea is too glorious a word—these white girls shoved me around during games of basketball—in their matching outfits, because their mothers were taught and taught them femininity. Their nails digging through my shirt. Playing victim when the P.E. teacher asked what was going on. The white girls went to the mall. The white girls decorated cakes. The white girls dated the white jock boys who secretly longed for me—and who were too young for Asian fetish. The white girls wanted to be elementary school teachers and nurses.
———-I wanted to take over the world. I only ate store-bought cake. I cursed the white jock boys who secretly longed for me. I wanted to take over the world. My brother scolded me for that thought. He taught me how to play basketball and screamed at me so loudly, the whole neighborhood could hear. He was beat up in locker rooms when he was my age, for being Chinese. He said I deserved to be made fun of because the other kids wanted to be more athletic. I told him that anyone who rests on athleticism is doomed and selfish. He went to his room, slamming the door in my face. He is twelve years my senior. Last year, I deleted his number from my phone.
At Dawn, After I Kiss a Girl for the First Time
We get breakfast in the Ithaca Commons because she loves diner coffee. She asks me how I feel about our “practice.” By “practice,” she means her lap on mine, my hands over her back, our tongues in deep, our lips in an O, sealing the deal. By “practice” she means the long kiss while three boys watched us like their pocket-size-PG-rated-male-gaze-porno-of-college-girls. I drink my strawberry milkshake and laugh with her over their disappearance once the kiss was over. She holds my hand. We eat French fries, and I think about female closeness. Or how I used to watch girls in Hong Kong share French fries, dipping them into their soft serve for a real treat. The sun comes up. I want to kiss her again. Three days pass. The sun goes down. I think about the scene in Showgirls when Nomi Malone sits atop the Flamingo Las Vegas munching on a burger and fries, the lotus flower of the hotel blending in with the sunset. I remember being ten inside Caesar’s Palace looking up at the ceiling’s painted clouds. The Fountain of the Gods. Prada. Gucci. Ver-sayce. Whenever a sun rises or sets, time stops. It’s like a picture book. Whenever I like a girl, I suddenly remember my childhood. The sun goes down. Maybe it’s because the love is pure. She picks me up in her Jeep. We go back to her place, strip to our underwear, and take a nap. She licks my ear. I kiss her on the cheek. Then the edge of her lips. We laugh. Then lips on lips on lips on lips. I think about that pivotal moment in pop culture when Marissa Cooper falls in love with Alex Kelly on The OC. Marissa’s California girl hair. That all-teeth smile when Alex drives her in her Jeep and the sun goes down. I think about saying the word girlfriend. Whenever I like a girl, I suddenly remember my childhood. We wake up. She does my makeup. I wonder what would have been if the network hadn’t cut Marissa and Alex’s relationship short. If Marissa could’ve been badass instead of tragic. There’s nothing more powerful than two women in love.
Dorothy Chan (she/they) is the author of most recently, BABE (Diode Editions 2021), in addition to Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). They are an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Honey Literary Inc., a 501(c)(3) literary arts organization. Visit their website at dorothypoetry.com.