Dorothy Chan: December 2016 Poet of the Month
Tattoo Parlor Sexed
As the artist fills the pen, I remember
when I was a kid, I’d watch Coneheads non-stop,
always pausing at the scene when the daughter
gets a butterfly tattoo on her cone. She was a piece
of work—a work of art, a child’s craft project
gone comedic, a beginner sticker book that angered
Daddy, and I wonder what it is with tattoos that even makes
supermodels and drag queens go crazy. Your body
is your canvas, but I remember that last week
of college when you live out your regrets,
when the muscular pretty boy who used to walk me
home after parties was getting a tattoo and asked me
to go with him. He wanted a superhero logo on his shoulder,
and I sat there annoyed with all the designs:
devils, angels, “I Love You, Mom,” “Patty Forever,”
remembering how all the English nerds
got Oedipa’s horn on their forearms—
massaging his hand, the entire time, because
what is the right response when you’re not a participant?
I thought about him, sitting there, branding himself,
getting the stupidest tattoo in the world, then remembered
that reality show of the random guy blessed with dating
an entire girl band. The blonde guy’s girl with pigtails
takes him fishing. He passes out and vomits.
Peppy One takes him on a retro shopping spree.
The other one does some kind of typical date: probably
dinner or a movie or even both. And Wild One
meets him on the beach, promptly telling him
they’re getting tattoos, and before the ink dries on his panther,
she’s giving him massages all over. She wins,
and in the next scene, she and Random Blessed Guy
eat a steak dinner, then look down at New York
from a helicopter. And it’s crazy, the way some people
get so turned on with pain, but I’m starting to feel fragile.
In the parlor, I feel like every part of my body is going to
fall apart any minute—I imagine my nipples getting pierced,
my breasts bursting into flames—how I’m a porcelain doll,
and one little touch is going to make me shatter,
and I let go of Pretty Boy’s hand, escaping this charade,
on the way home thinking of getting anime eyes
tattooed on the back of my neck,
because I’m always watching you.
Miss Hong Kong, I’ll Always Love You
We land in Hong Kong, and the first present
my mom receives from her best friend is a tabloid.
Miss Hong Kong 1974’s on the cover,
her botched plastic surgery and Botox showing
how life’s a forever pageant—and I think about
how buying someone a tabloid is like buying
someone a nightgown or a pair of boy shorts
or toilet paper when you know they’re out
or a gift card to a chain restaurant—you’d better
be damn close or dating for at least three months,
but back to Miss Hong Kong: I look at her
looking at a photo of herself as a twenty-something
during her short-lived singing career,
performing in a wedding dress as hot men dressed
as waiters come up behind her, trying to steal her
attention with flowers or chocolates or coupons
for walks on the beach, but Miss Hong Kong,
I’d throw those flowers out because they make me sneeze,
and I’d nix the romance on the beach because
the sand tickles my feet, but I’ll devour your whole box
of truffles or caramels—why are we even reminiscing?
Just go to a five-star in central and the world’s hottest
waiters will be lining up just to take your order,
and Miss Hong Kong, I’ll love you forever, but please
eat the men like dim sum and throw out that goddamn
wedding gown. White’s really not your color.
Dorothy Chan is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review. She 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 Hinchas de Poesia. In 2012, she was nominated for a Pushcart.