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. 

Content warning for sexual violence

Five Sonnets for Red Lips: Goodbye, J.

I throw up thinking about you, the way
you’d insist on dragging me to the dance floor
like a doll you call Beautiful or Pretty Lady
or The One, anything dainty or floral or feminine,
when I just wanted you to call me Dorothy,
as in my name, as in Yellow Brick Road,
as in Judy Garland in gingham and pigtails,
as in florals are the most overrated virtue
of fashion. Judy, inventor of red on the silver
screen. Red, the color of my lips that you kissed
when I asked you to join me in bed—me, wearing
a fuchsia fishnet bodysuit, when I thought
this was going to be special. When I thought
you would never, for as long as the Earth moved,

	do that to me. Red, the color of your face
	when I told you to stop. You were hurting me.
	You didn’t want to stop. Red, the color of your face
	once you did stop, and said, “No, that’s not how
	things work.” Red, the sound of your voice.
	Red, the color of my face, the worst feeling
	in the world. But it’s my body. I don’t plan
	these things. I react. I wish. Why didn’t you
	pay attention when I told you about my stress,
	about feeling forced to feel feminine,
	about women being allowed to change their minds.
	Fuchsia, the color of my bodysuit that I’ve now
	worn for someone else. And for someone else.
	And for someone else. Red, the color of my lips,

brighter and brighter in every photo I send now,
tongue sticking out, tits looking sculpted
by a Roman artist, my new lover says,
and I’ll need a Cherry Coke over my breast soon,
how you never sent me photos over a screen—
all take and no give. And I can’t believe
I let you touch my breasts with your clumsiness—
how you nearly knocked a table over
at the sushi restaurant before the squid salad
and sashimi came, but I should have known
you’d throw your size around, overpower me,
pin my wrists in bed, throw me down.
And I throw up thinking about you
calling me Princess or Temptress

	like a video game character with double Ds
	and a high-pitched moan. Or Dream or Gift
	or Apple of My Eye, like a celebrity baby,
	when I’d rather you just call me Dorothy.
	Or Baby, because it’s no frills, two syllables.
	Dorothy, as in friend of Dorothy,
	as in code for gay man, from the Golden
	Age of Hollywood, as in Judy you’re a forever
	icon, and girl, you help me sing my way
	out of any misery, dance with the New York
	backdrop behind me, in grays that become
	blues that become violets, and one morning,
	I ask my new lover if he spells gray
	as “gray” or “grey,” but back to the point:

Queer, my identity you tried to erase,
because girls who like girls also can’t
possibly like boys. Or men. Man. The word
you think you are, but are you really,
giving dirty looks to other men at bars.
Red, the color of my face when I think of you.
Red, the color I now see in vibrations
and tremors and throbs that don’t come
because of you, because red is not only anger,
but also, orgasm. Because red is the color
of Chinese good fortune, and I’m telling you,
goodbye forever, J. Red, because stop.
Red, the color of Chinese strength and beauty
in that moment I feel red. Oh, that moment.

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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