OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 5

Dorothy Chan

Where Are All the Hot Pilots: Thank You, Mrs. Guan

 

I’m four-years-old, and a plane’s flying above

              the Hong Kong playground when my teacher,

Mrs. Swan, well, Mrs. Guan, but I’ll always

              think of her as a swan, also known as the creature

I fear the most in life, because have you seen swans

              bully ducks at the zoo, or chase brides

down the lake, eating their Vera Wang, and MTV captures

              that moment, and I can’t switch the channel fast enough,

and maybe I’ve taken too many Renaissance art history

              classes: Zeus as glitter, Zeus as a swan

wrapping his neck around Leda’s Rubenesque figure,

              like Björk’s 73rd Academy Awards eveningwear,

a beak that’s ready to open, ready to feast,

              and Mrs. Guan’s now beaming, pointing to the sky,

You’re going to be on that plane to America soon!”

              And she must’ve been so relieved, the way I’d stand up

in the middle of class and stretch and eat crackers,

              or write my name in Chinese too large,

or four-year-old date the only European boy in school,

              and I remember his name, Anton, Anton, Anton,

and maybe I was the creature Mrs. Guan feared the most in life,

              the little girl who wreaked havoc

in the Hong Kong classroom, and Mrs. Guan, thank you

              for giving me my love of airports, which beats that Swarovski

swan I gifted you the day before I moved to Pennsylvania,

              and thank you for that afternoon you pointed at the sky,

because I knew just then at four—I needed to escape,

              but airports aren’t just about departures and destinations

to Hawaii over the sunset like a tanning lotion ad,

              but arrivals, reminding me of that short-lived-eighties-style-

dramedy featuring the woman who booked JFK Airport

              as her wedding venue—flights cancelled and delayed

and the unlimited energy and time and money, and yes, that’s excessive,

              and Home Sweet Home is wherever I’m with the one I love

or Home Sweet Home, the ceramic pineapple engraving

              my parents have hanging in their Vegas home,

and yes, Manhattans and double Wild Turkeys and Dirty Martinis

              at airports are overpriced, but the more important

question remains: Why aren’t there any hot pilots anymore?

              because damn it, I want my Vivien-Leigh-Waterloo-Bridge-

moment of cat-eye-fucking-every-hot-guy in sight,

              in uniform, but my version’s in the airport,

not the train station, and there’s no ill-fated roses since I don’t even

              like flowers, and Mrs. Guan, I’m sure you miss me,

and I sure do miss you, and every time a plane takes off

              I’ll think of my glass swan on your bookshelf

shattering, and I’m just going to get out of here,

              take my crackers with me, stand up in the middle of class—

Boy, I really hope this airport has some hot pilots.

 

 

 

Ode to the Most Beautiful Neck Alive

  

Whales in IMAX are orgasmic

              out of the ocean, flying over a cliff,

CGI effects of flipping over

 

              to a Respighi number, and can you imagine

falling down that waterfall with a lover,

              letting go of all of this earth,

 

or as they say on reality shows, Take that leap

              of faith, get ready to fall…in love,

as the contestant and her man rappel down

 

              a twenty-one-story building, he tells her

Baby, just look at me, and no, they’re not in love

              because this isn’t a life or death situation,

 

and I’m not afraid, but I get turned on

              by my fears, because life’s a little more

fun that way, because if you’re stuck on a roller coaster

 

              ready to flip, think about sex with a combo

of a young James Spader and Gatsby—I promise

              you’ll get through the drop

 

in your stomach when terror becomes tingle,

              or what about nights I nightmare over Walmart

and grocery store pool floats: killer orcas and Sea World

 

              dolphins and smiling turtles—

tonight, it’s a Free Willy on dry land chasing me

              as he rubs against the ground,

 

transforming into a snake, then a twenty-foot piece

              of rubber, barking like a seal, pounding like a condom

wrapped around an oh ohhhh noooooo ohhhhh,

 

               I wake screaming, like 1930s’ Disney cartoons:

Mickey shrinking in a garden, chased by a worm,

              or what about Donald and his long-necked ostrich,

 

Hortense, necking him, and oh, could you make love

              to a woman’s neck the way Modigliani did,

or as my art teacher says, I have a friend

 

              who can only draw women with long necks,

and I think about how long necks really are like swans

              before the squawking and biting,

viewed by couples so in love they’re on a boat,

              and Parmigianino really knew women,

didn’t he? Madonna of the Long Neck,

              her angels in the corner, the poet as prophet

barely touching her knee, her hand on breast,

              the beautiful eyelids, curtain

draped in the corner, and covers

              and veils and canopies are always sexy,

but I’d rather be on one side of the curtain

 

              than the other, because when an ex-lover

touched my thigh, telling me,

              You’ve got such an elegant and talented neck,

 

I thought, “Yeah, just shut up

               and kiss me—you’ve got absolutely

no idea,” my neck wrapping around his like a swan’s.

Dorothy Chan is the author of Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, April 2018) and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets(New Delta Review, 2017). She was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets, The Common, Diode Poetry Journal, Quarterly West, Blackbird, and elsewhere. Chan is the Assistant Editor of The Southeast Review. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com.