Ode for Baby Pandas, Hong Kong Mornings, and My Grandmother
The one English word my grandmother knows is beautiful-- Beautiful, like pandas knocking over buckets of leaves in Sichuan, over and over again, and their nanny moves them to a corner, their adoring fans waiting with cameras, and if I won a million dollars, I’d fly across the ocean in a heartbeat just to hug them, just to give them cardboard to rip, just to see them trot along on their merry way, ready to cause more destruction, ready to knock over more buckets of leaves, and it’s beautiful, and speaking of cute, I’d take a date with baby pandas over a date with the celebrity dreamboat of my fantasies any day, even if said date included a view of Tokyo Tower and raw oysters and every caviar imaginable and the best lobster in the world and a nice serving of uni and a little Cioppino and pistachio gelato and some French fries with sweet ketchup on the side, and Do you want to go out for a steak later? I’d like it nice and rare, nice and rare, and that’s everything I want, but I want the pandas more, and it’s beautiful the way the panda expert on television declares that pandas are beautiful because they remind us of our own children, and I’m jealous of travel show hosts who get to cuddle them, because I think about their black and white goodness, like black and white cookies or Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes with their oh so twee vanilla spirals, reminding me of cute girls wearing cute blouses with black ribbons, and I’m not pure enough to pull that off, but I appreciate the effort, ladies—beautiful—and what about blackout cake or white truffles or my favorite Hong Kong drink of all time, the yuenyeung, the yin yang, the divine East Asian morning concoction of three parts coffee and seven parts milk tea, and it’s eight, not seven that’s the lucky number in Chinese culture, but that’s beside the point, because this drink is beautiful, beautiful with a Hong Kong breakfast of noodles and ham in broth or what about condensed milk on toast, a side of Asian sausage, or what about plain and simple congee—what a beautiful morning, and oh, my grandmother’s so beautiful, and it’s beautiful how beautiful is the only word she knows in the English language, and I love how she loves girls wearing double buns because they remind her of pandas and I think it’s beautiful how the Scottish Fold next door makes her smile like she’s a kid again, and she wants to let him in, but I’m allergic, but oh that smile—beautiful, like my first memory with her, making cookies in the shape of camels, and if I won a million dollars, I’d fly across the ocean, take my grandmother with me to play with pandas in Sichuan, order her a bowl of noodles with lots of beef and tripe, and oh, do you see those baby pandas knocking over those buckets of leaves—beautiful.
The Chinese Zodiac Snake Cocktail
According to the Chinese Zodiac, Snake and Rat meet at a bar, and she slithers away sipping something a little smoky, a little sexy,
a little jalapeño mixed with tequila, because Light my fire, baby, light my fire, she’s thinking, ready to devour the Rat Man whole, and the Snake Woman’s
a seductress—fire embodied, the face and body that launched a million ships into the night, that oversexed little human who really means no harm,
unlike Eve’s serpent of the candied apple, but really, who wouldn’t have been seduced by that creature so long and graceful, long and graceful,
baristas had to name a coffee after her: The Snake in the Grass made of mint and mocha and a shot of espresso-- Ice me, baby, ice me, or what about the cocktail
of gin and vermouth and lemon and ice, and let her sneak up on you, and why don’t you imagine you’re stuck in the sheets, a boa constrictor slithering
up your way, and would you push her off? You’ve got to admit that even if you’re terrified, you’re turned on, and the Snake Woman is a seductress ready to swallow
the Rat Man whole, and he loves how she’s wise, good with money, a little arrogant, and in Chinese culture, if you’re called a snake, it’s a real compliment—a good eye,
the cunning to succeed, beautiful eyes, and I learn this when I’m six, stunned, facing a yellow snake caged up in a pet store in Pennsylvania, and when I go home,
my father reads me a fortune, tells me I’m a snake, and when I’m fourteen, losing my temper, my mother tells me about the family fortune teller visits before I was born,
how he warned my parents about my temper: if I lost it too often, I’d end up a housewife with two children, and in that moment, at fourteen, I want to cry
at my kitchen table, but my mother tells me in every case, I marry a handsome man live happily ever after, and I’m not romantic, but that fairytale’s carried me
through adulthood, the way I think about the animals of the zodiac, and the Snake Woman’s a seductress, ready to eat the Rat Man whole, and she’s compatible
with roosters and oxen, but rabbits are too much sex for too little time, but there’s just something about a snake and a rat playing cat and mouse at a bar—how she slithers
away, he’s intrigued—she’s hard to read, she swallows him whole, and they forget about everyone and everything in the world, in this scene of tension
you could cut with a knife, and it’s sexy the way she wraps herself around him, and the rest is history, and if the fortune teller’s right, I can hardly wait to swallow my Rat whole.
I'll Take the Love and Not the Money, Plus Some Oysters by the Half Shell
All I want is a dozen oysters at the hotel bar, no mignonette or lemon required, and don’t the best nights start this way: I’m hankering for an iced seafood platter or a dirty martini with extra olives, or the seven-star suite, bowling alley and stripper pole included for a little I-won’t-tell-if-you-don’t-tell-2-AM-dance where I’ll take the clothes off your back, you applaud, and room service of filet mignon and garlic mashed potatoes miraculously appears, and don’t you dare betray me the way James Bond killed that stunner-of-a-Godiva-woman-walking-her- white-horse-on-the-beach-a-green-bikini, after they rolled around on the white fur carpet, and before their room service of caviar and Prosecco arrived, but instead of all of the above, tonight, I end up with $1000 in chips at the Blackjack table because some guy I met at a Scottsdale bar called a limo to Talking Stick Casino & Resort, insisting I play the role of eye candy, but no, I’m not the girl who blows on dice for luck, so, he buys me that $1000—will I take the lust or just run with the money, picturing '90s Demi Moore rolling in the dough, in her prime, what an Indecent Proposal, and oh, the thought of starring in an XXX where money’s the lover is just so appealing, but I think the answer is I’ll steal the $$$ and be with the one I actually love, but is it stealing if it’s rightfully mine—how the best feeling in life is a beautiful woman whispering in your ear or what about Botticelli’s Venus rising out of that scallop shell, her Victoria’s Secret curls ready for a little romp on a seashell bed like an Old Hollywood actress playing peek-a-boo of find the pearl, spread my legs, cater to my every whim, pearls wrapped around my breasts, a pearl necklace as a thong, or what about Japanese love hotel roleplay where we get it on to the fish and mermaids in this make-believe tank of a wall, or if you’d prefer, we can watch the solar system, and all I want is a dozen oysters from the hotel bar, and I’ll leave the money, and instead we can have nicer things like spaceships and shellfish and romantic tension, and oh, oh, your face, smiling underneath the sheets when room service knocks on our bedroom door.
-- DorothyChan is the author of Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, Forthcoming March 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 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 Academy of American Poets, The Cincinnati Review, The Common, Diode Poetry Journal, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. Chan is the Editor of The Southeast Review and Poetry Editor of Hobart. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com.