This selection, chosen by guest curator Addie Tsai, is from Monkey Was Here by Jasmine An, released by Porkbelly Press in 2020.
Grandma Told Me That
“We’re Chinese, we don’t do things like that.”
Grandma says, “We’re Monkey, we don’t do things like that.” So I leave the silver blade in the corner of the public pool shower stall. I don’t ask questions. I listen to my friends whisper about waxes and razor burn. I watch my dad cover his chin with stiff white cream and wipe his shadows away. I go to Grandma’s house. In the small bathroom with yellow wallpaper and brown shag mat, she teaches me to roll a single hair between my fingers, to transform myself from follicle to toe tip. This, the real magic, I can be anything I want: good granddaughter, good at long division, good—girl, golden, white, American.
Grandma dies. ‘08.
I go to high school. Learn hair
is black, ugly, straight.
In the shower, I press two fingertips together, pull and pluck until I’m bare. No razor. I’m Monkey. I don’t do things like that. I can be anything I want: bald, beautiful. But this summer, I gain ten pounds that I can’t disappear. I reach into my armpit, and there are no hairs left, no transformations. Monkey realizes she’s a woman. I’ve been one all along. Every pore and bruise, everything is mine; a body that will not go away. It’s mine.