The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Grammar of Untold Stories by Lois Ruskai Melina


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from The Grammar of Untold Stories by Lois Ruskai Melina, released by Shanti Arts Publishing in 2020. 

The Four Seasons of Longing

content warning for infertility

      If I’d had a baby in the fall, she would have hair the color of autumn leaves—red and gold. And I mean the red and gold of October in Ohio, not the wet yellow and muted orange of the Pacific Northwest where she would grow up, but the kind of hair that, when you see it, you pull off the road to take a picture. Moralovitz hair, which she would grow up disliking because relatives would tell her that her great-grandmother had hair like that and because it would be unruly and she wouldn’t know it looked like fire framing her face when the sun was low in the sky, the way it is after the Equinox.

      You have to choose a name carefully for a baby born in the fall; she will know loss early. Her name can’t be frivolous or playful. It must be strong enough to bear the sudden darkness, the shock of leaves falling to the ground, their wonder now a chore, the speed at which fertility is overtaken by barrenness. But not a hopeless name because she would still be a child.

     By the time I was a teenager, my abdominal cavity had beenovertaken by cells that had rebelled, bolting from my womb and growing into unruly scars. The lining of my uterus, luscious and pink where an embryo would cling and be nourished and become, fled instead, attaching where it didn’t belong, turning me inside out.

     If I’d had a baby in the winter, she would be born deep in darkness. A child who emerges when bear cubs and apples, more in sync with the seasons, wouldn’t dare, is not timid. She would be bold and disregard convention, a child of extremes, of broken collarbones and a voice that wouldn’t be carried off by the wind.

      I would peek in her room while she sleeps and see her body shaped in opposing angles as though I were viewing an excavation of bones that had been lying beneath the earth for decades—maybe centuries—white and hard and fragile. I would feel again the sharpness of a shifting shoulder, an elbow, a heel—long nights when those bones poked at me.

      Her skin would be thin and white, blue veins easily visible, and shiny, like the surface of a frozen pond, cheeks easily flushed by icy air or a gentle scolding.

      I would want to protect her, keep her inside, not expose her to the sharp wind of a school bus stop or the slip of tires on black ice the first winter she could drive. When you come from darkness, your bones know it, welcome it. It can creep easily into the soul of a daring girl born in winter, the way a chill might settle into her after a fevered run down a feathered slope. She will need to learn how to turn her face to the light the way a peony planted in the shade of a ginkgo tree reaches for the sun.

     By the time I was twenty-six, the adhesions reached into every part of my gut. I imagined them like the gauze cobwebs people buy to stretch over their shrubs at Halloween, one strand winding around an ovary then reaching for my colon, another filament choking a fallopian tube, another my vagina, my internal organs pulled out of whack.

     A baby born in spring would be promise and pastels. She would want to be held, to have you brush her hair, even when she is too big and bony to sit on your lap. She is bare legs before the weather changes. She is the dank smell of damp ground. Another child might bring you a broken robin’s egg, the softest blue on earth. She would carry the fledgling who tried to fly too soon, and you would watch her breathe air into its body, mouth to beak, quick bursts, faint whistle.

      If I’d had a baby in the spring, she would laugh from her belly. People would seek her out when they need light and not know the price she pays to be the one they depend on to give them hope. Hope can be heavy, a burden for one so young. And you would not know how much because of her smile. Maybe there are dimples. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Maybe you would see teeth, even if they were wired to one another to pull them straight when they tried to go astray.

      If you see her shoulders start to fall, even a little, you must not tell her to stand up straight. You must go to her, pull her onto your lap, stroke her hair. Don’t be afraid. She will let you. She will curl into you, the way her body remembers. She will even lay her head on your breast.

     By the time I was thirty, everything hurt: my period, my bowel movements, sex, hope.

        If I’d had a baby in the summer, she would come to life in the ocean. Waves would break over her. Sand would come home with her, between her toes, under her fingernails, in the labyrinth of her ears. It would stick to her scalp. The grit of her. She is tide, inching higher and higher, taking up more and more beach, all foam and blue eyes, then receding into herself, leaving rocks exposed, wet, slippery. She is driftwood. Not a bleached white wood, but Pacific madrone, the color of salmon and the flesh of apples, heartwood as red as autumn leaves, grains and roughness smoothed by water.

      A girl born in summer surprises you like a sneaker wave, and you have to hold on because she is stronger than she looks. And she will take you with her.

      You will wonder if you ever really know her, if you ever see the full depth of her, and whether that is because she moves so quickly or because you are afraid of getting caught in her riptide, of being pulled under, because when that happens, you cannot fight, you have to just let go.

     My uterus was a mine that would never deliver any gold. At thirty-two, I begged the gynecologist to take it out. He balked. “You will never be able to have children,” he said, seated between the stirrups cradling my bare feet.

      I answered, trying to keep my voice cool as a frozen pond, my blue eyes an ocean intent on the light above the table, blocked from the doctor’s gaze by the sheet draped over the bones of my knees: “Not everyone wants children.”


Lois Ruskai Melina was raised as a city girl before Title IX provided many athletic opportunities for girls. She was an adult before she discovered her love of sports and the outdoors. Melina is the author of three books on adoption published by HarperCollins as well as a book about elite women swimmers training for the 2000 Olympics: By a Fraction of a Second (Sports Publications, Inc., 2000). Her essays and short stories have appeared in the 2016 Best of the Net anthology, Colorado Review, Blood Orange Review, Chattahoochee Review, and Sport Literate, among others. Melina lives with her husband and their two dogs on a floating house near Portland, Oregon. She has a grown son and daughter and two grandchildren.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Grammar of Untold Stories by Lois Ruskai Melina


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from The Grammar of Untold Stories by Lois Ruskai Melina, released by Shanti Arts Publishing in 2020. 

Down in the River to Pray

         (excerpt)

This is what I knew:

         My nephew Benji graduated from drama school. When he crossed the stage to accept his diploma, he wore a sultry Lauren Bacall wig and a cream-colored satin evening gown with padded shoulders. His make-up was perfect, his lips the color of blood and desire. My mother told me he looked stunning. And that after the ceremony he argued with his father and my sister, his stepmother but the mother who raised him.

         Then he left for New York. It was 1988.

         Fourteen years later, my mother told me Benji had disappeared. He came home one day from his job at a restaurant and trashed the apartment he shared with a roommate. Then he left. No one knew how to find him or if he was even alive.

         Her voice dropped to a whisper as she added, “He has HIV.”

         I put a story together that, at the time, didn’t need to be correct; it just needed to be a story that made sense. I thought “estranged.” I thought “We don’t know where Benji is” meant Benji moved and changed his phone number because he didn’t want to talk to his family any more. Many of us have been on one side or the other of that wall, but we know it’s a wall that exists because we agree to it. We know we can find or be found if necessary. And six years after Benji disappeared, it was necessary that I find him.

         I needed to find Benji because my mother died and left Benji and her other grandchildren a little money. Because she didn’t know what happened to Benji, she stipulated that the money would go to “living grandchildren.” If Benji wasn’t alive, his share went to the eight other grandchildren, not to his father, his next-of-kin.

         As my mother’s executor, I had to find Benji if he was still alive.

         I thought about the last time I’d seen Benji. It was the mid- 1990s. I was in New York for business. We met at a restaurant near the Met. He didn’t mind coming uptown, he told me when he picked the restaurant. His face was freshly washed, and he wore a shirt with an open collar. It must have been fall because I remember us eating at a table on the sidewalk and Benji wearing a brown tweed sport coat.

         Benji held his fork in his left hand while he cut the pork cutlet, then switched his fork to his right hand to take a bite, the way he’d learned growing up in the Midwest; he hadn’t adopted any big city cutlery affectations.

         “I’m still waiting tables,” he said, when I asked what he was doing.

         “But I’m rehearsing a play,” he added, slurring his words like a Chicagoan does.

         I smiled. “That’s great. How often do you perform?”

         He shrugged and stabbed another piece of pork, holding it on his fork, suspended in front of his mouth while he answered. “It’s just some people I know—in this warehouse space, but I think it could lead to some auditions.”

         I noticed his sport coat didn’t fit well, and I thought he probably bought it at a thrift store just for our lunch. I didn’t know how Benji usually dressed, whether the satin gown at his graduation was to shock his parents, upstage his drama school classmates, or to come out. Maybe he didn’t own a sport coat because he didn’t lunch uptown that often. Maybe he didn’t wear men’s clothes. At the time, I assumed he thought I would feel more comfortable if he didn’t look showy, and I had been oddly touched. My cheeks reddened at the memory of Benji considering my comfort when he got dressed that day. The idea that Benji might have covered his flamboyance for me was touching in the mid-1990s, embarrassing in 2008.

         I hadn’t been a very involved aunt. I was eighteen and Benji was five when my sister married Benji’s father, a widower with five children. It’s true that I was focused on college, on love, later on my own marriage, but I also avoided my sister, who could be dramatic, telling stories that were inconsistent with previous stories—and sometimes with reality. I could understand if Benji went dark just to avoid her.

         I thought it would be easy to find Benji. We leave so many tracks: credit cards, tax returns, rental history, work records. A few phone calls and Google searches, and we can find a childhood sweetheart, a college roommate, a lost child.

         But I was wrong; it wasn’t easy.

         We don’t know where Benji is was not just parent code for Benji doesn’t want us to know where he is. It wasn’t just Benji code for My father, a crew-cut cop, is uncomfortable around me because I wear make-up, and my mother lives in her own reality. So I am not going to make the trek home for Thanksgiving when I can make some good tips if I stay in New York and wait tables.

        All of that may have been true, except that Benji really had disappeared.


Lois Ruskai Melina was raised as a city girl before Title IX provided many athletic opportunities for girls. She was an adult before she discovered her love of sports and the outdoors. Melina is the author of three books on adoption published by HarperCollins as well as a book about elite women swimmers training for the 2000 Olympics: By a Fraction of a Second (Sports Publications, Inc., 2000). Her essays and short stories have appeared in the 2016 Best of the Net anthology, Colorado Review, Blood Orange Review, Chattahoochee Review, and Sport Literate, among others. Melina lives with her husband and their two dogs on a floating house near Portland, Oregon. She has a grown son and daughter and two grandchildren.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Grammar of Untold Stories by Lois Ruskai Melina


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from The Grammar of Untold Stories by Lois Ruskai Melina, released by Shanti Arts Publishing in 2020. 

Metamorphosis

To find a star garnet:

           First, drive to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

           Alternatively, go to India.

You will need to bring a shovel, a bucket, heavy plastic bags, and an eighteen-inch square made of two-by-fours with a quarter-inch screen stretched over one open side.

            Take a child too. A ten-year-old is best. A seven-year-old may get bored and start throwing rocks.

            Think twice about taking your mother, even if she is visiting from the city where she has lived most of her life, where she takes your children to the zoo when they come to visit even though they have seen bear and moose from the trails they’ve hiked and coyote and deer and quail from their bedroom windows. You will be tempted to want to show her who you are, who you’ve become since leaving the city—someone who knows her way around screes and cedar, who can smell the musk of a rutting elk in the autumn woods, identify a huckleberry bush bare of fruit, track a wounded deer in the snow.

            Keeping your eyes on the road as you drive down Idaho Highway 3, explain to your mother and your children that the ground beneath you is part of a vast glacial flood plain.

            Say this: “At the end of the last Ice Age, creeping glacial ice blocked the Clark Fork River in what is now northern Idaho and northwestern Montana, forming a lake 2,000 feet deep and 200 miles wide. When the ice dam failed, water flowed out faster than cars on a freeway, tossing boulders, carving out gullies and coulees, piling up rocks, creating valleys and waterfalls and basins.” When no one responds, keep talking. Fill the emptiness with what you know, with words. Explain that the rolling hills of the Camas Prairie are ripples from the force of that water washing through. The scablands of eastern Washington were carved by it, and the Palouse River was pushed away from its confluence with the Columbia River and forced to drop over a shelf on its new journey to the Snake. Grapes in the Willamette River Valley of Oregon flourish today in the fertile silt deposited in that flood.

           Take a breath before going on: “The ice moved again, dammed the river again, flooded the land again and again, creating the landscape from the west slope of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The basin of this former lake is where you can find fossils of fish and where minerals like garnets that were heavy enough and strong enough and deep enough to withstand that kind of battering are just beneath the surface, waiting to be found if you dig a little bit.”

           Turn onto the Forest Service road that leads to the stretch of Emerald Creek where you are allowed to search for gemstones. Follow the creek as it meanders through the meadow at the edge of the trees. Point out how ordinary it seems, how it gives no clue of the treasures it holds close. You will pass a mill where they crush garnets into abrasives for fine sandpaper. The pink sand will dust your tires and stick to the lower parts of your car, sparkling in the sun. Be careful when you wash it off—it can scratch the finish.

           Buy your one-day permit.

           As you walk single file from the car to the creek, smelling the freshness of yellow pine in the woods, explain to your mother and children that metamorphic rocks are formed by change. Say this: “Heat and pressure deep in the underworld of the Earth alter the texture and composition of rocks. The pressure breaks bonds and causes minerals to recrystallize into structures that are stable in this hot, stressful environment. Garnets are a family of minerals formed this way.” Recite the geological names of all the minerals in the garnet group: almandite, grossular, pyrope, spessartite, andradite, and uvarovite. Tell them garnets can be red, green, yellow, brown, purple, even—rarely—blue, but in Idaho, the stones are mostly deep red like the seeds of pomegranates. Reveal the purpose of this excavation: “What is unique to the garnets of northern Idaho and India is that some contain tiny rods of rutile— another mineral—that lie along the crystal planes of the stone. When the polished dome of a garnet is turned under the sun, these rods reflect light, making a four-ray ‘star’ that looks like an ‘X’ or six-ray that looks like an asterisk.” Raise both your arms, even though you are carrying a shovel and a screen, to punctuate your declaration: “This is what we’re looking for.”

            With the shovel, dig up the loose gravel from the creek bed and put it in the bucket. When the bucket is full, spill a little of it onto the screen. Dip the screen in the creek and wash the smaller stones out. Sort through the larger rocks for one that is the color of the skin of ripe plums. It will be rough, not showing its full potential. Take that rock and toss it in the palm of your hand. Feel the weight of it. Then you’ll know. Examine it for fractures. If there are too many, put it back in the river. When you find a stone that is big enough and without serious fault, place it in a plastic bag to take home.

           Your mother will not have the right shoes for walking off trail. She will not know how to pee in the woods, so she will refuse to drink water. She will sit on a log a ways from the creek, too far to be included, too far to see you or your children stand in the creek, the frigid meltwater swirling around your ankles until your feet are numb. She will smile, the way a houseguest does, and speak only to say, “No, I’m fine here,” or “Aren’t you worried he’s going to hit someone with those rocks,” or “Oh, my,” when your daughter shows her the mound of rocks she has pocketed as worthy.

           After you fill all the bags, or your feet are cold, or even your ten-year-old has started throwing rocks, go back to the car. Drive out of the woods, past the mill, into the meadow, and find a spot where you can sit on the bank of the creek and eat lunch. Park the car where your mother can sit in the passenger seat and still see you while she eats.

           As you pass out sandwiches and fish out cans of soda floating in the melting ice of your cooler, explain that the word “garnet” is derived from Latin words for grain and pomegranate. Say this: “As rocks metamorphose, garnets begin as tiny grains, then grow over time as metamorphosis continues, sometimes becoming included in rock. The polished gems were used in Egyptian jewelry. Noah is said to have used a garnet lantern to steer the Ark. Early explorers carried them as talismans.”

           Look in the creek while you are eating in case there is a garnet reflecting aubergine in the clear water.

           On the way home, after the children have fallen asleep, tell your mother that a psychic told you once to wear a large garnet ring as protection and that you had a fifteen-carat garnet with a four-pointed star—one you found in Emerald Creek—polished and fashioned into a sterling silver setting. Say this: “It looks like something the pope might have on his finger.”

           Don’t tell her that you wear it when you are afraid, when you aren’t sure you can be the rock that she and your children expect you to be.

           For Mother’s Day, have one of the stones you found polished into a cabochon. Choose one about four carats in weight. Have it made into a lapel pin suitable for a Pendleton wool blazer. Give it to your mother to remember the day she went to Emerald Creek to pan for garnets.


Lois Ruskai Melina was raised as a city girl before Title IX provided many athletic opportunities for girls. She was an adult before she discovered her love of sports and the outdoors. Melina is the author of three books on adoption published by HarperCollins as well as a book about elite women swimmers training for the 2000 Olympics: By a Fraction of a Second (Sports Publications, Inc., 2000). Her essays and short stories have appeared in the 2016 Best of the Net anthology, Colorado Review, Blood Orange Review, Chattahoochee Review, and Sport Literate, among others. Melina lives with her husband and their two dogs on a floating house near Portland, Oregon. She has a grown son and daughter and two grandchildren.

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.

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. 

A Poem About Killing Off Your Homophobic Characters

	I.

I swear, the homophobic women my brother loves are one
recurring character in the soap opera of my life, where the actress
is replaced mid-season, and no one notices.

She doesn’t have a fan base. But of course, every show needs a villain

(or two), and the writers are writing their way out of her storyline,
because no one needs a homophobic villain. It’s television at its laziest,

And I think about how my brother’s current wife paints me as a
villain—a bad Chinese girl because I will never worship a man
simply for existing.

I don’t have time for that.

Boys worship me,

And don’t get me started on how movie villains are often coded gay,

As in you can’t be both queer and good on screen,

As in I love my gay villains but where are my gay heroes,

As in, let me tell you this, kids: brains and cunning
>>>>>>>>>>>>> (to infinity) brawns, and who wouldn’t want a
dungeon, an eel sidekick, purple eyeshadow with winged liner and
a fur coat, curves for days, a serpent staff, and your own musical
number so you can grind until there’s no tomorrow for your grand
entrance, as you crash a party at the king’s castle,

And curse his baby just because you’re a little bored on a Thursday,

And because gender reveal parties are the true evil of the world,

And I want to be sexy Satan in fishnets eating all your cake,
popping all your balloons.

	II.

If life really is a soap opera, then I demand an evil twin. I want to hug her.

					Let’s take over the world, body double.

I remember how growing up, I dreamt of having an older sister
rather than an older brother, because an older sister would shame
me less—would not make fun of my growing body—

Would not ask me about my sexual orientation out of nowhere at a
stoplight in Washington DC.
Would not assume the worst of any sexual orientation that wasn’t straight.

Would not say, “[Insert wife #1’s name here] was wondering,” as if
my orientation is a source of heterosexual entertainment,

Because of course, bisexual women are just so funny for existing,

Because of course, it’s okay to pry into a woman’s business if she’s bisexual.

My brother and I haven’t talked in over a year.

I don’t miss him.

	III.

My name is Dorothy,

And I love laughing over how my parents unintentionally named
me after the Wizard of Oz character,

As in the Hays Code era term, “friend of Dorothy,” meaning gay man,

As in remember Scarecrow’s line, “Of course some people go both ways,”

As in Scarecrow is my favorite Batman villain (besides all the
sapphic women) because he’s a professor,

As in some depictions, he’s the villain with the best voice and oh so smooth,

As in give a girl enough books, and she’ll turn queer,

As in no, I’ll never be a good Chinese girl who worships a man just
for existing,

As in, I’ll wear the Dorothy outfit for sex. But I’m not Dorothy. I’m all
the witches in one, depending on my mood that day.

My parents were going for “gift of god.” I can be both. I can be
all—even if god doesn’t exist.

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.

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. 

When I Tell Him About the First Girl Who Loved Me,

All he says is “Wow,” like that’s the only response

	when the woman you could love might have ended up
	with another woman in another timeline, and I picture

me and L, my first girl, suspended in a glass box filled
with water, like subjects in a Ren Hang photograph

	shot on a hotel bed in lime green light, and the glass
	never shatters until the end of time—Hello, Holy Grail

of a femme making love to another woman, the metaphor
of the unreachable thing that men can never have,

	and cue the fantasies, but this is real. He asks me about
	L—L as in lips, or how he says I have the most beautiful

mouth in the world—L as in Let’s call this practice,
she used to say each time we kissed and went down,

	and I’d play in denial—L as in Lauren, her name—my Ralph
	Lauren blouse body on top of her flannel, clothes unbuttoning

as I whispered sweet nothings in Cantonese to her—L
as in love, as in real time, he calls what we have Whatever

	this is, and boy, I’ll make up my mind someday, and I wonder
	if I did love her, remembering us holding hands as she walked

me home, saying “We could do this every day, you know.”
I remember those nights, me at 20, headed home after

	sunset, already knowing the world could be all mine. I know
	I want him. But I don’t tell him. I worry we’ll never reach

that level of intimacy, of him doing my makeup after sex.
I wonder about me and him in that glass box in lime green

	light—all ours—recorded. I wonder if I’ll ever let him go

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.

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 Oversexed and Overripe and Overeager

He asks me if I own any thigh high boots
	for the home movie of our dreams, so we can
have our Pam and Tommy moment, unleaked
	and let’s go old school on a tripod camera
then get drunk on a boat, me in a red one-piece,
	nipples popping out—let me put a Cherry Coke
over them—and I tell him I have absolutely
	no grace as a woman. I can’t walk in heels.
I hate florals—how innovative for spring.
	I’ll do my makeup in five minutes or under,
because what more do you need than a good lip
	for pleasure and a rosy cheek for treasure?
I’d rather be kicking it in Air Force 1s with
	plaid skirts and sweat dresses or go ultra-sexy

	with lingerie as outerwear in public, looking
like I have some place better to be than here,
	and isn’t the key to life to walk into the room
like you’re the most important person. I lace up
	my kicks, put on a red plaid dress, from the noughties
era of Betsey Johnson reliving her Club Kid days,
	hot pink bra underneath, thinking about how
tomboys in anime never wear their uniforms
	properly—there’s always an unladylike bit:
an untucked shirt, an unbuttoned blazer, a loose
	tie, sneakers instead of Oxfords, and of course,
she’s the one in the group voted most fun to be
	around. Don’t we all want to be the best time.
I think about what it even means to be ladylike

as a woman. Once upon a time, my father
	told me to be a little lady, in the middle of
a department store shoe section. I still hate
	him for that. Lady is code for woman to be
controlled. I cannot be controlled. I will not
	be managed—I’ll roll around in shorts and crop
tops for the rest of my life—the whole womanchild
	aesthetic of dressing down for success
or I don’t care what you think about me,
	because I’m a wonder, and I don’t care about you.
I own the room. I overline my lips, throw on
	a pair of boy shorts and a mesh bralette,
ready for the home video of fantasies—
	it’s my moment of splashing out of the water.

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.

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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The End is Not Apocalypse by Tanya JADE VINE Singh


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Solstice Black, is from The End is Not Apocalypse by Another Morning Where Everyone Tells me I'm Dead by Tanya JADE VINE Singh, released by Yavanika Press in 2021. 

Content warning for genocide, death, and violence.

The end of the body is where it begins

Frenzied mobs of young Hindu thugs, thirsting for revenge, burned Sikh-owned stores to the ground, dragged Sikhs out of their homes, cars and trains, then clubbed them to death or set them aflame before raging off in search of other victims.

– Simran Jeet Singh, It’s Time India Accept Responsibility for Its 1984Sikh Genocide

In 1984, the attackers had set Sikh homes, shops and gurdwaras on fire. One of the most brutal tactics was to “garland” Sikh men with tyres and set them alight.

– Sonia Sarkar, From 1984 to 2020: A tale of two “riots

XV

Our names breathe what we cannot. It takes the whole dawn to make ruin of a house, walls swept in, photos hung in purple lights. A child brings chestnuts in time for lunch and we all eat together, the sun, a golden yolk pulled from the sky. I wanted something to bite on, anything to forget the histories of blood, blue scavenge, the copper moon. I watch ghosts walk past the china, their eyes full of earthly longing. I laugh till I cannot laugh anymore. Ours is a lineage of short summers spent worshiping small gods, contractual and ceremonious. We are children of bone and blood; we are married to dirt before we’re even born.


Tanya JADE VINE Singh (it/its) is a queer, transgender/agender anarchist, poet, essayist, and teaching artist from Chandigarh, India. It is the author of Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides (Ghost City Press, 2018) and The End Is Not Apocalypse But Another Morning Where Everyone Tells Me I’m Dead (Yavanika Press, 2021). Its work has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Rust + Moth, Polyphony H.S, and elsewhere, and has been recognized by Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Student Contest, among other places. It is deeply inspired by the politics of indispensability. 

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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The End is Not Apocalypse by Tanya JADE VINE Singh


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Solstice Black, is from The End is Not Apocalypse by Another Morning Where Everyone Tells me I'm Dead by Tanya JADE VINE Singh, released by Yavanika Press in 2021. 

Content warning for genocide, death, and violence.

The end of the body is where it begins

Frenzied mobs of young Hindu thugs, thirsting for revenge, burned Sikh-owned stores to the ground, dragged Sikhs out of their homes, cars and trains, then clubbed them to death or set them aflame before raging off in search of other victims.

– Simran Jeet Singh, It’s Time India Accept Responsibility for Its 1984Sikh Genocide

In 1984, the attackers had set Sikh homes, shops and gurdwaras on fire. One of the most brutal tactics was to “garland” Sikh men with tyres and set them alight.

– Sonia Sarkar, From 1984 to 2020: A tale of two “riots

XIII

I cannot cry so I sigh irregularly, my arms falling sickly. My mother tells me to rely on god but god, I know, is miserable. I visit him when I can. He moves mechanically and curses a lot, tells me I’m late when, in fact, I’m an hour early. I offered him a foliage of trees, the neighbor boy sitting on the bathroom stool, my hands covered in menstrual blood. God did not say a word. All he wants is to take and take. I’m standing in the rain and it is pouring sadness. Just a little green, just a little more, I ask the painter. I name this story so nobody else names it before me: Let god see the light through the window, everyone finally seated at the dinner table. We are all playing a game of pretend—I’m dead, I’m not dead, he’s dead, he’s not dead, they’re dead, they’re not. I can very well make up the rest of the story at this point, but I do not. I leave it all to the church bells, visions of spring, kisses under the mistletoe. I leave it where no one can find us dead or pale under the moonlight. I leave it to you, the reader.


Tanya JADE VINE Singh (it/its) is a queer, transgender/agender anarchist, poet, essayist, and teaching artist from Chandigarh, India. It is the author of Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides (Ghost City Press, 2018) and The End Is Not Apocalypse But Another Morning Where Everyone Tells Me I’m Dead (Yavanika Press, 2021). Its work has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Rust + Moth, Polyphony H.S, and elsewhere, and has been recognized by Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Student Contest, among other places. It is deeply inspired by the politics of indispensability. 

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.