Ode to Psychics, Hookers, Shark Bone,

and Free Iced Tea

Dorothy Chan


You’re suffering from a hot and cold love interest
is what the psychic at the Scottsdale, AZ mall
tells me in the food court, minutes after she claims
my aura’s got It, and she’s drawn to me
because of Chemical X, the stuff of magical girls:
the sugar and spices and everything nice,
like bourbon and beer and lingerie sets with matching
robes and the Easter version of candy corn—
and really, women are strong as hell, so I tell her,
“Lady, 100% of movie characters and 200% of people
living on this goddamn earth suffer from love,
so what fortune do you really have for me today?”
I sound like I didn’t get my free gift with purchase,
or the cashier gave me the wrong Happy Meal toy,

but it’s stupid how she leaves me her card,
then tells the man behind me that he’ll end up
being rich and famous and land a hot wife in no time,
and no, of course he doesn’t have Chemical X,
so why give him more than he deserves?
And at brunch, I yell at the waiter when I order
a Croque Madame and he keeps calling it a Monsieur,
and why can’t he see the egg soaking, penetrating
the toast on top, taking charge, like that French movie
with the two prostitutes milking their Sugar Parents,
the female one teaching the male hooker
to please his Sugar Mama, amuse her with some fun fact,
like how the knives in the five-star are made of
shark’s bone, and before he knows it, his Mama’s
buying him a new watch and beautiful silk shirts,
until she gets bored of games, dumping him
for someone younger, because well,
what does he really deserve?
And that night, I meet a male-former-stripper-
slash-porn-writer- starving-artist-bartender-nice-body
for dinner, make him pay for my iced tea,
because once he talks too much about his failed
Hollywood life, I walk out after five minutes.
What does he deserve for writing second-rate porn?


My Father is the Son of a Concubine

Dorothy Chan


It’s crazy how much cleavage the concubines
on the hot, new Hong Kong soap are showing.
My mother hates it, but what’s not to love:
gorgeous women of whatever century
Imperial China sporting dragonfly
patterns on silk while they brush their hair—
their transfer of bedroom politics into
the Let’s-Play-Dirty-scheme-in-couture-
and-their-wives all in one episode.
And if life is made of episodes,
then what about the one when my friend
tells me that I was a concubine in a past life?
I’m sure I was at the top of the food chain,
racking up bills, bills, bills
on a powerful man’s credit card,
forming alliances with the right women,
only to knock one out each week,
clawing my way to the top, and dethroning him.

And with this word, concubine,
I think of my father, born to a concubine—
not a royal one, more like a second wife
to a grandfather I’ve only met once.
At six, I ask Dad why he has a half-brother
and half-sister. Mom interrupts, telling me
my grandparents divorced early. I don’t believe her.
At nine, Dad is driving us from Allentown
to New York—what’s the emperor doing
in Flushing? It’s Chinese New Year,
and for once, we’re celebrating
with my Dad’s side, where in the restaurant,
we sit the farthest away from my grandfather,
who three-quarters of the way into dinner,
gives me a red envelope.
On the drive home, Mom opens my envelope:
“Dorothy got $50.” “That’s not bad,” Dad says.
“Her cousins got $700.” He keeps driving.
I never see this grandfather again.


Dorothy Chan was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship and a 2016 semi-finalist for The Word Works’ Washington Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Plume, Spillway, Little Patuxent Review, Dialogist, and The McNeese Review. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart. She is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review.

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