Dorothy Chan

Triple Sonnet, Because I’m a Lucky Girl

I want a heart-shaped bed and pink curtains
           in true Hollywood fashion, like a leading lady
whose love language is physical touch
           and whose favorite food is Red Velvet Cake
with extra cream cheese frosting. My lover says
           a Roman artist sculpted my breasts, and I love
when he kisses them goodbye—oh, his chiseled
           face—that movie star laugh that melts my body,
but I swear, I’m giving up all men, because even
           the best ones aren’t psychic the way women are.
I’m a Chinese girl who loves fortune telling
           and palm readings and my zodiac, and yes,
a little mystery goes a long way, like whiskey
           shots that keep the spark alive in what we call

           romance, and “Who is your favorite Renaissance
artist?” and “Who is your favorite Ninja Turtle?”
           really should be added to the list of questions
you ask before staring into each other’s eyes—
           POW! You’re in love, and the correct answers
are Donatello and Raphael—One, have you seen
           David, the bronzed-up androgynous boy nude,
except for the hat of laurels and boots made for
           walking over Goliath’s head—you are victory,
my boy, victory, and Two, I love the color red
           and working alone, like most Chinese girls do,
as I paint my lips rouge. Asian Snow White.
           But I hate being the model minority, because when
I’m not perfect, chaos ensues, and I roll my eyes,

at my straight friends who watch my love life like
           it’s spectacle—As Seen On TV for free, and no,
I’m not dramatic—you’re just not used to women
           taking up space, and I hate how girls on TV can
only be hot or traumatized, dancing in low-cut
           sparkling red dresses and clear heels in the club,
and I want to take up space, create my own city
           that’s filled with bakeries of every color éclair
imaginable as I feed orange blossom macarons
           to a lover in the tub, and I think of the starlets
of MGM musicals who taught me it’s okay
           to feel lonely, because a woman will always
need more. And I’ll sing louder, make myself
           happy, chewing up the scenery with my lips—

                                            Honey, I’m a lucky girl, aren’t I.



Let’s Tear Each Other’s Clothes Off, I Tell Him Over the Phone

I don’t know why I’m the one apologizing
when my pussy doesn’t get wet

                                                                                no matter what he does to me,
                                                                                and I should have listened to my body

the minute I kissed him in the lobby
of the Best Western and felt nothing—

                                                                                no fireworks or spark or bang bang bang
                                                                                bang, and really, what was that dry kiss,

his gray buzzed head, his glasses ready
to be removed—what love story starts

                                                                                in the lobby of the Best Western,
                                                                                and I thought I needed this love, the kind

that insists he needs to take you home,
even though you’ve only had one

                                                                                Aviation at the bar, with extra cherries,
                                                                                because bartenders love you, and he hates

how bartenders love you, and question:
what’s it called when two people really

                                                                                really want their way with each other?
                                                                                Because it’s the opposite when I strip off

my clothes in our hotel room, telling him
to get on top of me, though my body’s not

                                                                                ready for him, nor will it ever be, and Girl,
                                                                                I tell myself, looking back now, Always listen

to your body, because it knows before
your head does, before your heart does,

                                                                                and I don’t know why I’m the one apologizing
                                                                                when my pussy doesn’t get wet when he licks it,

and he won’t stop licking even after
I get up from starfishing, saying Stop, J,

                                                                                stop. My pussy’s too precious for his unshaven face,
                                                                                the bristles of his beard, and I hate his technique,

and he pushes me back down onto
the bed, ready to do it again, ready to

                                                                                enter me, even though he knows my pussy’s dry,
                                                                                then throwing a That’s not how things work

when I tell him to take his penis out
of my vulva, and it’s like mechanics—

                                                                                the machine doesn’t work. The machine is broken.
                                                                                It’s never been assembled. This is not love.

And I’m dry the next night and the night
after that, and my throat’s dry over the phone

                                                                                a week later when he says, You talk a big talk,
                                                                                but I expect fireworks next time. Is this going

to be a problem? Why are you such a problem?
I want to say. Why do you give every man

                                                                                who looks at me the dirtiest look, I want to say.
                                                                                Why do you bring up wanting to have my children

at friends’ houses, I want to say. But I don’t.
And I cannot believe it. And I want to tell him,

                                                                                It’s one thing to say let’s tear off each other’s
                                                                                clothes and have our way with each other in bed.

It’s another thing to see each other in person,
to realize I can’t even look you in the face

                                                                                when we aren’t kissing, to know Stop means Stop
                                                                                right now. Get off of me. Get away from me.

Put your clothes back on. Let me put my
clothes back on and get a drink by myself

                                                                                at a bar, away from your constant chatter, away
                                                                                from your comments about my one-bedroom

apartment that doesn’t have enough
furniture, away from you and your pressuring

                                                                                me to have your baby in the middle of a dinner
                                                                                party, in the middle of a celebration, away

from you and your worries that I’ll meet
someone else I like better, away from more

                                                                                of your chatter, your comments that I’m too
                                                                                judgmental, too ambitious for a woman.

Get off the phone. Get out of my life.
Put your clothes back on. If you want fireworks,

                                                                                buy them and light them up yourself. Stop buying
                                                                                me cocktails. Stop buying me brunch. Stop buying

me dinner. Stop. Stop. Stop right now.
I am done now. Good bye. I will drink alone.

                                                                                I will eat in peace. I will find someone I like better,
                                                                                so stop. Stop now. Stop talking to me. I will win.



Five Sonnets for Red Lips: Goodbye, J.

I throw up thinking about you, the way
you’d insist on dragging me to the dance floor
like a doll you call Beautiful or Pretty Lady
or The One, anything dainty or floral or feminine,
when I just wanted you to call me Dorothy,
as in my name, as in Yellow Brick Road,
as in Judy Garland in gingham and pigtails,
as in florals are the most overrated virtue
of fashion. Judy, inventor of red on the silver
screen. Red, the color of my lips that you kissed
when I asked you to join me in bed—me, wearing
a fuchsia fishnet bodysuit, when I thought
this was going to be special. When I thought
you would never, for as long as the Earth moved,

           do that to me. Red, the color of your face
           when I told you to stop. You were hurting me.
           You didn’t want to stop. Red, the color of your face
           once you did stop, and said, “No, that’s not how
           things work.” Red, the sound of your voice.
           Red, the color of my face, the worst feeling
           in the world. But it’s my body. I don’t plan
           these things. I react. I wish. Why didn’t you
           pay attention when I told you about my stress,
           about feeling forced to feel feminine,
           about women being allowed to change their minds.
           Fuchsia, the color of my bodysuit that I’ve now
           worn for someone else. And for someone else.
           And for someone else. Red, the color of my lips,

brighter and brighter in every photo I send now,
tongue sticking out, tits looking sculpted
by a Roman artist, my new lover says,
and I’ll need a Cherry Coke over my breast soon,
how you never sent me photos over a screen—
all take and no give. And I can’t believe
I let you touch my breasts with your clumsiness—
how you nearly knocked a table over
at the sushi restaurant before the squid salad
and sashimi came, but I should have known
you’d throw your size around, overpower me,
pin my wrists in bed, throw me down.
And I throw up thinking about you
calling me Princess or Temptress

           like a video game character with double Ds
           and a high-pitched moan. Or Dream or Gift
           or Apple of My Eye, like a celebrity baby,
           when I’d rather you just call me Dorothy.
           Or Baby, because it’s no frills, two syllables.
           Dorothy, as in friend of Dorothy,
           as in code for gay man, from the Golden
           Age of Hollywood, as in Judy you’re a forever
           icon, and girl, you help me sing my way
           out of any misery, dance with the New York
           backdrop behind me, in grays that become
           blues that become violets, and one morning,
           I ask my new lover if he spells gray
           as “gray” or “grey,” but back to the point:

Queer, my identity you tried to erase,
because girls who like girls also can’t
possibly like boys. Or men. Man. The word
you think you are, but are you really,
giving dirty looks to other men at bars.
Red, the color of my face when I think of you.
Red, the color I now see in vibrations
and tremors and throbs that don’t come
because of you, because red is not only anger,
but also, orgasm. Because red is the color
of Chinese good fortune, and I’m telling you,
goodbye forever, J. Red, because stop.
Red, the color of Chinese strength and beauty
in that moment I feel red. Oh, that moment.



Dorothy Chanis the author of Chinese Girl Strikes Back (Spork Press, forthcoming), 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 was a 2020 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for Revenge of the Asian Woman, a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. Her work has appeared in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Poetry Editor of Hobart. Visit her website at