Triple Sonnet for my Aggressive Forehead

Dad thinks my forehead is too Godzilla, too Tarzan, too Wonder Woman,
tells me not to tie my hair back,
exposing it, like it’s the Frankenstein Monster
from beneath my childhood bed,
or the mollusk that challenged the world,
and Dad, I love you, but you should know
that I’m a nightmare as a woman
who can make the earth stand still,
calling all UFOs from planets beyond
to paint me on canvas just as I am:
a Chinese girl nicknamed Yellow Fever,
chowing down on all the pork buns
and chicken biscuits and shrimp bánh mì,
at the buffet, and of course, all the men

as I star in my own B-movie, give it an XXX,
every girl’s dream of playing opposite
King Kong, and you know I’m not some Fay Wray type
who screams at the sight of a hand,
and Dad, I think about all the ape toys
you bought me when I was a child,
because you never wanted me to be alone,
never wanted me to go a day without
laughing or plotting, and did I mention
that you were born on Halloween
which makes me half evil—I’m joking,
but Dad, you’ve got to let me keep my forehead,
despite your old school Chinese beliefs
of girls hiding their warrior brains,
and I know you’re just looking out for me,

but my forehead has its own life,
like an invisible screen—one-way glass
where the ad men are watching the women
try on lipstick, but in my forehead
it’s the other way around, because let’s let
the boys play, and the girls watch for once,
because every lip could use a bit more
rouge, purple, crimson, burnt orange, hot pink,
how at once, I want to dress up
as a flight attendant, an accountant,
someone at the front of the class holding a ruler
and yes, if I fill out a survey
from a sex magazine, I’m checking off
forehead as my favorite body part.

More by Dorothy Chan

Triple Sonnet for My Father’s Pet Goose, Pigeon Wars, and Daddy Issues

Lovers in cartoons get into swan boats
before declaring their undying love,
but I’m terrified because have you seen
the wedding footage of the swan eating
the bride’s white dress, chasing her down the pond,
and we live in such a scary world
that the bird poems really aren’t helping,
because what good do they really do?
But what about my father growing up
in Macau, in Hong Kong, across too many
boarding schools in Asia to count,
one day going home to his mother,
a goose arrives at his bedroom window,
like a sign from a higher being.

And when I’m twenty-three, in Singapore,
I’m telling this story to a man
double my age—we’re greeted by pigeons—
and no, I don’t have daddy issues,
I’m just pouring my heart out
because that goose was my dad’s best friend,
because my grandma ended up
cooking that goose, because the man I’m dating
understands these old-school-Chinese-stiff-
upper-lip-we’re-poor-so-I’m-sorry-son
situations of survival,
because this same man wants me to write
about his father, but I don’t have time
to be someone else’s biographer

when I’m thinking of how my father
made sure we always had a family dog,
a Buzzie to keep us warm, take out
for Italian ice and custard trips,
how during the Pennsylvania winters,
my father would bring lost birds inside
the house and feed them milk to keep warm,
how growing up, we’d go to the park
every weekend to feed the ducks,
and back to Singapore, when I look down
at the pigeons interrupting my date,
starting a brawl over scone crumbs
in the middle of the coffee shop,
I can’t help but just look down, laugh at them.

So Chinese Girl

Anyone who makes tasty food has to be a good person,
            because think of all the love that goes into cooking:
salt and pepper, sprinkle a little extra cheese, and pop open a bottle

            of Syrah, or if we’re eating at my parents’ in Las Vegas,
we’re drinking Tsingtao beer, my father’s favorite, and he adds more
            bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms and baby corn,

and fun fact: When I was a baby, I’d eat only corn and carrot-flavored
            mush, and now, my dad adds more to the Buddha’s Delight,
a vegetarian dish from China, and I think about my aunt

            in Hong Kong, who, once a year, buys fish from restaurants,
only to release them back into the sea—eat tofu,
            save a life—but back to the dinner scene in Vegas,

my mom is making her Cantonese lobster, extra garlic and ginger,
            and I grew up licking lobster shells for their sauce,
I grew up waking up during summer vacations

            to my mother wearing a headband, warding off the grease
from cooking crabs and shrimps, heads intact, and there’s something, just something
            about my parents’ cooking that makes me feel

a little more like a Chinese girl, because I don’t live in Hong Kong,
            and unlike my cousins, my daily stop isn’t Bowring Street Station,
where I could pick up fresh mango cake before it’s sold out,

            or what about chocolate mousse cake in the shape of a bunny
or mini–dome cakes shaped like cows and pigs
            or cakes shaped like watermelons and shikwasa and citrus mikans,

and who wouldn’t want custard egg tarts or hot dogs
            wrapped in sweet bread or sesame balls, washing it all down
with cream soda, and I feel like that little Chinese girl

            in Kowloon again, getting picked up by my grandpa
after preschool, ready to go junk shopping, and I’d come home
            with shrimp crackers and a toy turtle aquarium and a snowman

painting and a dozen roses, and no, I don’t even like flowers anymore,
            but there’s something, just something about thrifting
with my grandpa now at age twenty-eight that makes me feel

            so Chinese Girl, the way he bargains in the stalls,
asking for the best, “How much for that Murakami-era Louis Vuitton belt?”
            or “What about this vintage Armani?”

and it’s like that look he gives me at dim sum, after the sampler
            of shumai and har gow and chicken feet and char siu bao comes,
and he tells me to eat everything, watches me chow down on

            Chinese ravioli, and that face of his freezes in the moment:
“Eat more, eat more, eat more. Are you happy?”
            And oh, Grandpa, I’m so happy I could eat forever.