X. Vintage Shopping with Grandpa
Grandpa knows European fashion—
he bargains for Vuitton at a vintage store:
a white belt I’ve been eying for years.
His haggling brings me back to childhood:
age four when he’d pick me up from school,
take me shopping at a dollar store,
buy me a toy turtle aquarium,
a snowman painting, then off to groceries,
coconut flakes covering, dipped in jelly.
Grandpa stocks his fridge with Coca-Cola
for me, oranges for the ancestors.
He hasn’t been to Tsim Sha Tsui in years.
Everything he wants is right by his Barcalounger.
XVIII. Welcome to My Family
Before Family Dinner Time, I meet him,
this High Roller of Hong Kong’s Happy Hour.
He calls Mong Kok “touristy,” clinks his glass
against mine. I’ll take you to nice places
right after we visit your grandma’s stand.
My cousins could use some pajamas.
Is this the 21st century romance of
seeing your man once a year, then swiping right
the rest of the time just to keep busy?
He’s about to follow me—drunken jabber
of the high roller, to the bathroom.
Am I not family? he whispers,
Is this going to be our love story?
I hit his nose when I shut the door.
XIX. The Thai Palace
I meet my family at the Thai Palace:
Coke-floats and lemon-ice on the table.
This outdoor restaurant is a football field
of millions of benches and millions of people,
cramming into tight spaces, filling the paces
It’s voted “Most Authentic”—so loud that
I can’t even hear my grandfather speak.
He hands me a crab claw cut-open,
showing love. We eat our pineapple rice and
Tom Yum so hot you know it’s real
because it burns a Thai soccer boy’s tongue.
Grandfather points to the spring rolls, tells me
to eat more. I know I’m his American potato.
XXVII. To Market, To Market
Learn how to haggle. Well, a Hong Kong grandma’s
still going to stand her ground. But learn anyway.
Pick up a counterfeit Tiffany necklace.
That’ll give your boyfriend less pressure,
and pile on those sets and sets of pajamas,
then those sets and sets of silverware,
add in a Chinese opera magnet
and an old-fashioned lucky charm,
complete with gold letters and tassels.
Stop for milk soft serve and a Tsing Tao beer.
Learn your Chinese zodiac sign then buy it:
on a t-shirt, on a necklace, on a stamp,
and Buddha Buddha Buddha everything.
To market, to market we go.
Dorothy Chan was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship and a 2017 finalist for the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry from Pleiades Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Plume, The Journal, Spillway, Little Patuxent Review, and The McNeese Review. She is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review. Visit her online at dorothypoetry.com
*These sonnets appear in Dorothy’s chapbook Chinatown Sonnets now available through NDR.