Dorothy Chan

Triple Sonnet for Good Boys, Grandma’s Cookies, and Girls with their Cream Cheese and Lox
for Zack and Alison Strait

My grandma hates it when I wear black,
because that’s not what good Chinese girls do
to their ancestors or to the good Chinese boys
who take you home to family dinner,
finishing your whole bowl of rice, not a grain remaining,
because this is how ancient love matches
happened: not in the boardroom or bedroom
or over DM, asking a cute guy
to grab a seasonal latte and lox
when you meant to say let’s get a gin
and tonic or just get straight to the point,
but of course, Grandma’s having none of that,
and maybe she’s right—the dinner table is
the best place to meet your soulmate,

because relationships are the back and forth
of deciding on takeout: Peking Duck,
Moo Shu Pork, Crab Rangoon, Hot and Sour Soup,
or five greasy slices of sausage for you,
black olives and pepperoni for me,
champagne and hot dogs, toasting to loving
the same James Bond and sci-fi movies,
and oh, what more could you want out of a soulmate?
And, Grandma hates it when I wear black,
because Grandpa buys fresh oranges
every week to honor dead ancestors,
and if Mulan’s grandma believed in jade
beads around her elegant neck for luck,
mine believes in red and pink ensembles,

and no, it’s not oversexed—it’s optimism,
the way she remembers me as a little girl
baking cookies in the shapes of camels,
wearing my red plaid headband and barrettes,
a sweater with a burger logo,
because I was moving to America,
and she’d stop smiling after that move,
and now, I’ve got a thing for guys who like llamas,
and Grandma doesn’t care for runway
fashion or girls, girls, girls walking down
the street in tight, black leather dresses
or leopard mini-skirts, studded t-shirts,
because even if I’m her American potato,
I’ve got to keep my Chinese luck.


Ode to Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Judy Jetson, and the Sixties Version of the Future
for Alex, Catherine, and Baby Galway

I’d like a watermelon juice from a Singapore hawker,
          because when I was five, The Jetsons promised me an appliance
that would deliver food from any part of the world—any part of the universe,
          and I think about what potato chips taste like on Saturn,
since all chips: prawn cocktail, ketchup, all dressed,
          poutine, jalapeño, and scalloped are already so delicious—
take me to Canada, because I’m starving for the future—
          don’t you just love how meals look in video games—
fancy restaurants with goblets of blossom wine and floats,
          entrées of bacon with rose petals scattered on a plate—
the food’s making love—orgasms on a dish,
          volcanoes of pasta exploding, octopus tentacles, the biggest Japanese
porn star in the world right in front of you, and would you dare eat something
          that hisses back, Baked Alaskas screaming oh ooohhhhh ohhhhh, and let’s go down on
mashed potatoes and scallops out of a giant clam,
          thinking about our crushes, because food and sex, food and sex—
wasn’t Judy Jetson such a babe? Wasn’t she? In her trapezoid outfit,
          white hair, the way she ogled rock stars, the way she was the teenager
you once were—the ultimate girl-next-door, if that’s even still a thing,
          because girls like her don’t live next door anymore, and no one owns a house
and no one’s eating avocado toast with pepper on top, because who wants that
          when you could order stuffed French toast and scrambled eggs with lobster
a pork belly benedict, and bottomless Bellinis and Bloody Marys
          extra spicy, grilled cheese for garnish, but where are the flying cars,
see-through houses, robots, and slim space suits, latex, nipple hugging that were promised
          to us, the mod clothing from Planet Mars—where’s the sixties
version of the future the way you see George fly,
          Jane steal his wallet, or the flight attendants in Michael Kors
serving you mile-high club realness and a tomato juice and a bun,
          telling the passengers it’s okay to smoke on the plane,
because this is a swingin’ time and we don’t know any better—
          where’s my other world? But I think of my parents coming to America
from Hong Kong, arriving at my aunt’s in Chinatown,
          wandering Manhattan, dreaming of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
thinking they were some kind of gourmet dessert against bread,
          and why not throw in rose macarons and a boatload of sprinkles
while you’re sandwiched? Where are those flying cars—oh, Mom and Dad,
          I really wish you had them, because I know you cried coming here,
really hoping for that dessert sandwich, for a glass house
          in the sky, not a white picket fence and only one international channel
on cable, but at least our house was on a hill,
          the highest on the block, the other homes bowing down—good Feng Shui
since 3500 BC, facing the water, as Grandpa would say, but I know you’d both rather
          look to the skies, pilot that invisible jet out of here.


Dorothy Chan is the author of Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, forthcoming April 2018) and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Plume, The Journal, Spillway, Little Patuxent Review, The McNeese Review, Salt Hill Journal, and others. Chan is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review. Visit her website at