“Designer,” a Poem by Dorothy Chan

From the Collection “Return of the Chinese Femme”

May 3, 2024  By Dorothy Chan


Like Flavor Flav taking Sweetie to Red Lobster on their first date, during the first season
of Flavor of Love.

I forget his order. But I learned how happiness comes in small things. I think about
seafood tanks in Hong Kong restaurants. How summers ago, at Dim Sum, my grandpa
and I watched the tanks together. How the abalone and inches of prawns and lobsters
with whiskers and big-lipped-injected fish floated. How summers ago, Grandpa told me
he wanted more poems about eels. How he predicted the future. What Chinese
Grandpa isn’t magical. As a three-year-old in Kowloon, I dreaded seafood market
trips—the eels jutting their heads out, their midnight tails wrapping around each other,
their tiny teeth sticking out of the tank. How I knew one would slip out and eat
three-year-old me holding a mango soft serve. Their orgy. How the eel is the sexier,
electric version of the femme born in the Year of the Snake. Fate. How Grandpa
predicted the future. What Chinese Grandpa isn’t magical. I think about snake patched
jackets walking down Gucci runways. I think about how twenty-three-year-old me once
dated a twice-my-age-you-do-the-math-Singaporean-fashion-designer-who-once-
dressed-presidents-past-his-prime. How summers ago, he gifted me a pink snakeskin
handbag. How summers ago, his older sister forbade me from ever seeing him again. You
do the math. It’s still fashion. I think about seafood tanks in Hong Kong restaurants—
how my grandpa is waiting for me, ordering the abalone.


Return of the Chinese Femme - Chan, Dorothy

Return of the Chinese Femme by Dorothy Chan is available via Deep Vellum.

Dorothy Chan
Dorothy Chan
Dorothy Chan (she/they) is the author of multiple poetry collections, including Return of the Chinese Femme, BABE, Revenge of the Asian Woman, Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold, and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets. They were a 2023 finalist for the Roethke Poetry Award for Revenge of the Asian Woman, 2022 finalist for the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize from the New England Poetry Club for BABE, a 2020 and 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for Revenge of the Asian Woman, and a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University. Their work has appeared in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Book Reviews Co-Editor of Pleiades, and Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Honey Literary Inc., a 501(c)(3) BIPOC literary arts organization, run by women, femme, and queer editors of color. Visit their website at dorothypoetry.com.

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