The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Monkey Was Here by Jasmine An

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.

Jasmine An comes from the Midwest. Her poetry and non-fiction can be found in Black Warrior Review’s Boyfriend Village, Michigan Quarterly Review, Nat. Brut, Waxwing and Best New Poets 2020. She is author of two chapbooks of poetry Naming the No-Name Woman (Two Sylvias Press, 2016) and Monkey Was Here (Porkbelly Press, 2020) and Poetry Editor at Agape Editions. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD in English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan

Addie Tsai (any/all) is a queer nonbinary artist and writer of color. They collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. Addie holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College and a PhD in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. She is the author of the queer Asian young adult novel Dear TwinUnwieldy Creatures, their adult queer biracial retelling of Frankenstein, is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in 2022. They are the Fiction Co-Editor at Anomaly, Staff Writer at Spectrum South, and Founding Editor & Editor in Chief at just femme & dandy.


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