The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: BABE by Dorothy Chan

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Solstice Black, is from BABE by Dorothy Chan, released by Diode Editions in 2021. 

Triple Sonnet for Chinese Girls with No Humility

My brother tells me to have some humility,
	and I know this is an old Chinese standard
talking, or like my father says, women were
	once judged for marriage based on their manners
at the dinner table, meaning a silent bride
	is best: Be quiet. Compliment his mother’s
cooking. Eat your whole bowl of rice.
	And my brother gets away with playing
“nice guy,” as in “Look at that nice guy
	teaching his rude sister proper manners,”
because Chinese boys and Chinese girls
	are never treated the same way—think of
those girls born in the Year of the Tiger
	deemed too aggressive, or how my family

	fortune teller screwed me over at birth
by giving my parents the wrong fortune.
	Of course, there’s a beauty to not knowing
and letting life play out. Of course, my brother’s
	was right down to a T: the failed first marriage,
the second marriage to a medical researcher
	posing as the perfect Chinese wife, a little
too eager to cook meals, a little too eager
	to don a wedding gown, a little too eager
to call him “honey.” A little too eager
	to put me down at the dinner table in Vegas
when I order the salmon and she orders
	the lobster, and she turns to my brother,
saying, “Your sister is too big of a spender.”

But forget manners. I’ll order the lobster
	next time. Throw in French fries and a strawberry
mousse—take it to go, pay for my own
	goddamn meal, because I don’t need
anything from anyone. No, I don’t
	have a fortune, and it’s because no one
controls me. I think about the way a lover
	tells me I look good in red, and I remember
the red slips and fishnets underneath peacoats
	in college in those Ithaca winters, feeling like
the most powerful woman alive, and forget
	humility. My brother fears me. His wife fears me.
I’ve got the goods to show off. In what universe
	does a woman like me eat her rice in silence.

Photo courtesy of Bill Hoepner, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Dorothy Chan (she/they) is the author of most recently, BABE (Diode Editions, 2021), Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), and Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018). They were a 2020 and 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship finalist, a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry, and a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University. Their work has appeared in POETRYThe American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Editor Emeritus of Hobart, Book Reviews Co-Editor of Pleiades, and Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Honey Literary Inc., a 501(c)(3) literary arts organization.

Solstice Black (she/they) is a queer poet and novelist living in the Pacific Northwest. They are currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in ChautauquaThe Fantastic Other, and A Forest of Words, among others. They hope to pursue an MFA in creative writing and a BFA in visual art in the next few years. Her cat is both her greatest joy and torment.

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