What My Diary Might Look Like
On Losing Face So the Body Comes Back
This is what it looks like: picture
a Chinese girl and a dinner table.
The girl will wait until she is told
she can sit at the last seat available,
after the men and the boys, after
the elderly. She does not think it
wrong, this box-step of worries
she has learnt since she was old
enough to kneel whenever she lost
her cool, faltered in her smile. She
knows codes, taps them out on her
tongue: t-h-a-n-k y-o-u. S-o-r-r-y.
When the girl was six, she wanted
to be a boy. A storm of dresses fell
from her mother’s lips. The sky was
the color of whitened knuckles. The
girl became a dress, found herself
marooned at the edge of her bed –
mannequin beauty ready to drown.
In a dream, the dinner table is an ark
she has finally abandoned. The girl
dreams that the words sprouting like
weeds from her mouth are not weeds,
but magnolias – her mother’s favorite.
Mary Jean Chan won the 2016 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition (ESL), placed Third in the 2016 Bare Fiction Prize for Poetry, and has been shortlisted for the 2016 London Magazine Poetry Prize, the 2016 Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition, and the 2016 Resurgence Eco-Poetry Prize. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Bare Fiction Magazine, The London Magazine, Ambit, Callaloo Journal and The Rialto. As a Co-Editor of Oxford Poetry, Mary Jean is pursuing her PhD in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her article ‘Towards a Poetics of Racial Trauma: Lyric Hybridity in Claudia Rankine’s Citizen’ is forthcoming in 2017 from The Journal of American Studies.