Poetry / Dorothy Chan
:: Triple Sonnet for Eggsexuals ::
My friend Colleen says she’s eggsexual, and I’ve never heard a more brilliant food metaphor—I dream of shakshuka with extra basil, and when in doubt, garlic it out, and black pepper, black pepper, black pepper, and why do I hate greens for dinner but love them for breakfast: Eggs Florentine with artichoke hearts as a surprise, or what about spinach and poached eggs washed down with a dry martini—the 11:00 AM meal of choice for glove lunch goers everywhere, or as Taneum says, it’s the elusive fantasy mealtime of queer women, a way of flirtation that’s much more complex than chugging a beer and eating hot wings, or as I say to men on the first date: Let’s get this out of the way: I will outdrink you. You will think I’m boring because I hate sports and I love museums. I hate going to the beach. I hate hiking. Wow, I’m such a buzzkill holding a whiskey in a short skirt and red lipstick, but at least I’m honest, and maybe they’re not enough. And I’ll take the glove lunch any day— the matching plaid skirt with blazer mixed with the glances and blushing under the table and double the dry martinis before noon, because why not, I think, when I ask R on the phone how she likes her eggs and coffee, and isn’t it funny how these are the questions you ask when you’re dating? I remember my dad’s dry scramble vs. my mom’s wet scramble from childhood, and maybe eggs are precious, like in the typical middle school social studies project of treating a hard-boiled egg like it’s your own child, but I never got it, because it’s just an egg, and what’s not stopping me from breaking the shell and getting into the yolk? And I remember abandoning my child at the lunch table to buy some chips, branded a “bad mom” from that moment on, but it’s just an egg—and oh, how I felt ripped off when it didn’t hatch into a baby bird.
:: Triple Sonnet, Because She Makes Me Hot ::
She makes me hot, so I eat chocolate cheesecake after our phone call, down an espresso, and take a hot shower, because it’s one of those nights I’ve craved since I was a little girl who discovered that boys weren’t the only option, and I remember my first crushes on women— the fantasy of starring in my own trashy mid 2000s reality show on MTV where it’s a double (or triple) shot at love, and I’d strut around in emerald lingerie, telling the boys and girls to spank me, feed me carrot cake, and go out for a midnight swim in the nude. And isn’t it sexy how often water appears in our dreams? But of course, not all love is trashy, and I think about dressing up in a cheerleader costume, telling the lady contestants, I used to sneak a glimpse of the girls on the football field. But I’d rather skip gym class, paint all over canvases with beauties, or be ambitious, like Tara Reid’s Vicky in American Pie, looking oh, so fine in her gray Cornell t-shirt, and it’s oh so tight, Tara, and isn’t it ironic how I ended up going Big Red, or back to my college days in Ithaca when my friend L and I would tongue under my covers, saying “This is practice for the boys,” but we knew what we were doing—How does one even achieve intimacy? is really the million-dollar question of the century, and L, what we had wasn’t a phase, and I remember donning your yellow flannel after the sun went down in those Ithaca winters, and how you’d eye me saying, “You look like you just had sex,” and we’d laugh and hug and I’d walk home. And sometimes I feel frozen in that moment in time, when I’d get home, crawl into my own bed, in the nude, thinking about my friend Anna’s words, “I think girls in boyish clothes look more feminine,” and I’d wipe off my red lipstick with a tissue—fall asleep.
:: Triple Sonnet and Three Cheers for the Asian Bachelorette ::
Yena wants an Asian Bachelorette, but she’s worried our bachelorette will get disowned by her family, because nothing screams Dear Mom and Dad abandon me more than a starring role on reality TV and even the thought of casual dating, and I wonder why parents like mine expect me to pop out a baby when I wasn’t supposed to date in my twenties. It’s like the stork flew in, and out came the perfect black-haired child I’d dedicate my life to, giving up poetry, along with the endless cycle of girls and boys and great lovers in infatuation, and my problem is that I can’t say yes, though I think yes, done, and one are the sexiest words in the English language, or maybe I’m the Asian Bachelorette Yena so desires—the female lead who leaves you hanging each week because I can’t make up my mind when it comes to love. I’ll cry on cue in a ballroom gown in a castle in Switzerland, after a tough elimination, regretting my decision right away, but scratch that, I’d never wear am evening dress since I hate formal wear, and nothing turns me off more than a man in a suit, and why all the focus on the outfits when this is my life and my feelings and the hot sex I crave every night under the covers, and what if I played my Bachelorette role more Flavor of Love or I Love New York, giving out nicknames to pass the time, because we all need a little levity when it comes to love, so how’s about Stud or 8-Pack or Sailor Uranus to my Sailor Neptune. And yes to all this cheer especially when the final two meet my family over hotpot, and I end up choosing the one they dislike, but scratch that, I’ll eliminate both, because nothing’s better than being a free agent who doesn’t settle.
:: Triple Sonnet for Hers and Hers Towels and Princess Aurora’s Blue/Pink Gown ::
My brother’s wife gifts me a his and hers hot chocolate set for Christmas, and I want to scream, because in what universe are his and hers towels and his and hers mugs and his and hers bathrobes still a thing? All I see is his and hers rubbing it in that I don’t have a his (that they know of), but really, what’s with shoving this hetero agenda down my throat, along with cocoa, and my friend Drew says at least I get double the chocolate, when what I really want is a frozen hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and chocolate shavings and cherry on top from Serendipity 3, which is ironic because that’s the site of all the romantic comedies I hate. And what’s with shoving the hetero agenda down the throats of young women, and I remember having a freak out at the Krispy Kreme in Rainbow Springs Shopping Center in Vegas, because if gender reveal cakes and gender reveal parties anger me to no end, then gender reveal donuts are the spawn of evil dessert we don’t need, because who chews into a custard crème, sees pink or blue, and feels normal afterwards, when yellow was just fine? It’s the economy of it all I hate the most—the way blue boy and pink girl keeps getting pushed, when the only blue boy I know is the oil portrait by Gainsborough or the men’s magazine of abs abs abs and then some more dessert. Or what about pink girl / blue girl, also known as Aurora’s color-changing gown in Sleeping Beauty, and it’s funny how this princess only had eighteen minutes of screen time, most of which is taken up by this pink and blue debate, when I really wanted to see her in green dancing in the woods, seducing all the birds around her, barefoot, in charge, dumping Prince Phillip, because that kiss was dry as hell, and a princess needs at least sixty minutes of screen time.
From the writer
:: Account ::
Often, at readings, I get asked about the origins of my triple sonnets. I’m very proud to call the triple sonnet my signature form. I start by saying that three is such a magic number. Think back to the fairytales and fantasy books you read as a kid. I mean, the best things in life come in threes: Spumoni and Neapolitan ice cream, bears, hot celebrities with three names, the Powerpuff Girls, the BLT sandwich, etc. It’s like getting three wishes all at once. And, the sonnet is such a magical form.
I think about how the best poems don’t contain just one volta/turn but multiple voltas/turns. It’s a beautiful surprise each time that happens. And it’s a beautiful surprise when it happens at an unexpected spot in the poem. I think the best feeling in the experience of reading a poem is when you get to the very end, and the last line makes you go back to the first, thus going in an infinite circle, right back to the title and the first line.
My poetry works with excess. I mean, why have only one sonnet [or insert anything else you’re obsessed with] when you could have three (or five or one hundred or ten billion)? I love food, and in particular, this set of triple sonnets emphasizes appetite, whether it’s about the speaker’s cravings for shakshuka and Eggs Florentine in “Triple Sonnet for Eggsexuals,” her desires for this woman who “makes me feel hot, so I eat chocolate cheesecake / after our phone call” in “Triple Sonnet, Because She Makes Me Hot,” her need for reality TV fame in “Triple Sonnet and Three Cheers for the Asian Bachelorette,” or her mission to end heteronormativity and the binary structure in “Triple Sonnet for Hers and hers Towels and Princess Aurora’s Blue/Pink Gown.” I think it’s important to let our cravings out in poetry. It’s all very wild.
Dorothy Chan is the author of 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). She is a two-time Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship finalist, a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for Revenge of the Asian Woman, and a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University. 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, poetry editor of Hobart, book review co-editor of Pleiades, and founding editor and editor-in-chief of Honey Literary. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com.