The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Then Winter” by Chloe Honum

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“The Angel”

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This selection comes from the chapbook Then Winter, available from Bull City Press. Order your copy here. Our curator for August is Donna Vorreyer.

Chloe Honum was raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Her first collection, The Tulip-Flame (2014), was selected by Tracy K. Smith for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, won the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award and a Texas Institute of Letters Award, and was named a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. She’s also the author of a chapbook, Then Winter (Bull City Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review, and her awards include a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. She is currently an assistant professor at Baylor University.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013), as well as seven chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish from Redbird Chapbooks. She works as a middle school teacher in the Chicago suburbs.

An Interview with Sundress Chapbook Author, Lauren Eggert-Crowe

 

Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of Bitches of the Drought which was named runner-up in the Sundress chapbook contest of 2016 and was subsequently released this year. Of the chapbook Kate Durbin said, “Bitches of the Drought is Rocky for riot girls—all ecstatic anger and beat-him-to-the-punch puns.” Eggert-Crowe talked with our intern, Cheyenne L. Black, about the unique speaker of this chapbook, feminism, and the dance of writing, among other things.

Cheyenne L. Black: Congratulations on Bitches of the Drought. This is your third solo chapbook, correct? Do you see them as related projects?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: Yes, it is my third solo chapbook and my fourth altogether. Interestingly enough, I don’t see the chapbooks as related projects at all. Except that there is some overlap in the timing of when I wrote some of the poems. My chapbooks are all pretty independent from each other. I would like to do a series of interrelated projects someday though.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk a little bit about why you’ve pursued this format and if you plan to continue writing chapbooks?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I actually know some writers with even more chapbooks than I have! Lisa Ciccarello is the first name to come to mind.

For me, the chapbook seemed like a natural and obvious first step for publishing a poetry collection. I knew people who were publishing these small, ephemeral, and beautiful collections from indie presses. Friends from grad school, writers I knew tangentially, were publishing chapbooks before their first full-length [collections].

I think I will continue to make chapbooks, even if I publish a full-length collection someday, because I like the flexibility of the format. Chapbooks are good opportunities for experimentation in language, form, and production style. They’re some of my favorite objects to hunt down and collect at the AWP book fair.

Cheyenne L. Black: Tell me a little about Galatea’s Pants (GP). You produced this zine for 11 years, right? Did your long running zine have an effect on the writing you were able to produce as well? How formative to your current work was GP?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I started making ‘zines when I was 16 years old, and the last issue of Galatea’s Pants came out when I was 28. It started out as a personal/hodgepodge ‘zine of collages, essays, poetry I liked, quotes from my friends, etc.

In 2003 it sharply changed direction and became a very political ‘zine during the years of my radicalization and activism against the Iraq War, and it continued halfway through the Obama years, with certain issues dedicated to one topic, such as labor rights or immigration. It spanned three presidential administrations.

That’s the project I dedicated the most time to over the years, and I would say it shaped my approach to creative work, design, community, and feminism.

Basically, I self-published until I was ready to start working with gatekeepers and publish in other outlets. I no longer wanted my poetry to stay in limited distribution in these personal ‘zines. It was time to close that chapter after eleven years. But making ‘zines throughout my teens and twenties was a good way to keep myself committed to getting my thoughts on paper.

Cheyenne L. Black: Let’s return to the chapbook. In Bitches of the Drought, in the poem, “I Came Back to Shake the Sand Out” you write about the proprietary arm of a partner and then move to “but I was the one / who asked, is this okay?” And likewise in other places in Bitches, you ask questions and probe at the roles of the speaker. Is she questioning her own role within relationships in general? What role does feminism play in her sense of herself?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: That’s an interesting question. I would say feminism is inseparable from all of my poetry, whether or not I am consciously thinking about it while writing, because feminism is inseparable from myself. I think the speaker in the poems weaves between tremulousness, muted depression, and aggression, but I suppose you’re right, there is always a questioning tone behind it all.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk a little more about your speaker? She has these wide arcs to her that are just wild and amazing to read and experience vicariously. How do YOU characterize her?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: She’s a bitch, or she wants to be. She tries to be and often fails. She’s angry but lethargic, but defiant, but also very romantic.

Cheyenne L. Black: What was the process of writing this speaker like for you? Did it bring up connections to your own life?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: The process was cathartic but also circular. All [of] this time I was writing, I didn’t feel like I was actually writing. I thought I was making these poetic exercises that weren’t going anywhere. I certainly was connecting with my own life and sometimes I had a line here or there that I liked, but for the most part, I felt like I was off my game. Sometimes the process felt wild and all over the place. Sometimes it felt very controlled.

Cheyenne L. Black: What do you really love about this chapbook?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I love the atmosphere I was able to create with some of the images. I think I managed to nail it with a handful of metaphors. I love that the speaker gets kind of sassy and flippant and uses foul language or internet slang. I am proud of myself for trying to make poems that didn’t necessarily have a conclusion or clear meaning. I mostly love that it came out of a year of writing in which I didn’t think I was actually writing.

Cheyenne L. Black: Is a year pretty typically your time-frame for your larger projects? How much of that is spent in active writing and how much is spent in revision?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: It varies. In the Songbird Laboratory was a shorter version of my MFA thesis from grad school which I had worked on for a few years in school, and then shelved for five years, and then lightly edited before submitting to dancing girl press. The Exhibit was written in a burst of creative inspiration over one summer and fall, and pretty much immediately submitted to Hyacinth Girl press. Rungs and Bitches of the Drought, and the chapbook I’m currently working on, were written over a few months and then subjected to years of editing.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk about your process a little bit? Were the poems for Bitches written in roughly the same time-frame then?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: The bulk of the poems were written in the same year, and then I forgot about them for awhile until I came back to them to try to organize them into a chapbook. That’s generally my process for poetry lately. I write when I don’t think I’m writing. Then I come back to it and realize I have some decent material. Then I added a few other unpublished poems that were written about three years earlier because I felt that they fit the theme.

Oddly enough, the title is the first thing that came to me, months before I started writing many of the poems in the chapbook. Sometimes that happens. Titles flash in my brain first and then I try to follow them.

Cheyenne L. Black: So it sounds like your titles are more than street signs pointing to the poems, but rather are a kind of content marker or even content generator?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: Yes, I think that makes sense.

Cheyenne L. Black: You spoke earlier about the effort to make poems that didn’t conclude or have clear meaning. What led you to want to move in that direction?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I really want my poetry to be multivalent, and I have this feeling that as soon as you make it obvious what the poem is “about,” you have killed the poem. I want my poems to feel more like dancing than walking, and dancing is a form of movement that relies on expression and interpretation.

Cheyenne L. Black: You’ve released three chapbooks, one of those a collaboration, and now another chapbook, in just a few years. Are you writing constantly?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I’m not! I really wish I were. The chapbooks I have created have come from a time when I was writing almost every day for a month or so. Imagine what I could make if I sustained that effort for a year or more. I think I am moving in that direction though.

Cheyenne L. Black: What are you working on now? Can you give us a line or two? A sneak-peek?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: A collection (maybe chapbook, maybe full-length), the bulk of which is from poems I wrote in the summer of 2014 and then left alone for three years. As of now, they are all going to be untitled. Here’s a sneak peek:

I leave places like it’s going out of style
Trash on the ficus-broken sidewalk
Women slapping each other on TV
Hyphenated hoods and the interlopers in their cars
The dust comes into my house and never leaves
My feet charcoal the sheets, my bird-pecked
pomegranates swinging like lanterns beyond the curtain
Where are you dark and gleaming

 

____

Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of three previous chapbooks: Rungs, (co-authored with Margaret Bashaar), In the Songbird Laboratory, and The Exhibit. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, DUM DUM Zine, horseless review, Springgun, Sixth Finch and DIAGRAM. She is the Reviews Editor for Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, and she serves on the leadership team for Women Who Submit.

Cheyenne L. Black is the editor-in-chief for Hayden’s Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is an MFA candidate in poetry and a former Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, Bacopa Review, the American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others.

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Nominations Open for 2017 Best of the Net Anthology

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Nominations are now open for the annual Best of the Net anthology from Sundress Publications. This anthology promotes the diverse and growing collection of voices who are publishing their work online and serves to bring greater respect to an innovative and continually expanding medium.

Nominations must have originally appeared online, and must have been first published or appeared on the web between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

Nominations must come from the editor of the publication (journal, chapbook, online press, etc), or, if the work is self-published, it must be sent by the author. For journals and presses, each entry may include up to six poems, two stories, and two works of creative nonfiction for consideration. For individuals sending self-published work, please send no more than two pieces regardless of genre.

Please include both the URL of the poem, story, or essay as well as a full text version in a Word or RTF document. Nominations must also include the author’s name and email address as well as the name, contact info, and URL of the journal.

Submissions must be sent via email to bestofthenet@sundresspublications.com between July 1st and September 30th, 2017.

See the full submission guidelines here: http://www.sundresspublications.com/bestof/submit.htm

 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Then Winter” by Chloe Honum

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“Teaching Poetry at the Juvenile Detention Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas”

It’s cold and the light is blurry,
the fluorescents spasming,
the walls a steely gray.
Each child is given a pencil.

Their cells are just beyond
the heavy sliding doors.
They write get-away poems
and tree-house poems.

Sack of weed and siren poems.
A flea appears on my arm and
quivers, like a fleck of onyx.
I watch it bite and gleam and the boys

sitting across from me
watch it, too. In a cement
tomb, hope is anything
that travels in big leaps.


This selection comes from the chapbook Then Winter, available from Bull City Press. Order your copy here. Our curator for August is Donna Vorreyer.

Chloe Honum was raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Her first collection, The Tulip-Flame (2014), was selected by Tracy K. Smith for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, won the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award and a Texas Institute of Letters Award, and was named a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. She’s also the author of a chapbook, Then Winter (Bull City Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review, and her awards include a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. She is currently an assistant professor at Baylor University.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013), as well as seven chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish from Redbird Chapbooks. She works as a middle school teacher in the Chicago suburbs.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Then Winter” by Chloe Honum

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“The Motel”

On the outskirts of a thundering town,
I checked in. My hair was swingy with rain,
my umbrella blown inside out.
The cement stairs went up and up;

had they risen one flight higher
I might have slept in a palace of violet
and silver clouds. As it was, my room
was an ugly place to miss you from,

with thin carpet and curtains
that seemed to exhale dust.
Seeing myself in the speckled mirror,
I lay flat on the bed. In my hand was a map

of the motel on which the clerk
had circled my home for the night—
among a series of doors,
a blurry number inside a drop of rain.


This selection comes from the chapbook Then Winter, available from Bull City Press. Order your copy here. Our curator for August is Donna Vorreyer.

Chloe Honum was raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Her first collection, The Tulip-Flame (2014), was selected by Tracy K. Smith for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, won the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award and a Texas Institute of Letters Award, and was named a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. She’s also the author of a chapbook, Then Winter (Bull City Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review, and her awards include a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. She is currently an assistant professor at Baylor University.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013), as well as seven chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish from Redbird Chapbooks. She works as a middle school teacher in the Chicago suburbs.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Then Winter” by Chloe Honum

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Before Group Meditation

I recall splendor.
On a borrowed bicycle,
I wobbled fast

downhill over jutting roots,
a swarm of horseflies
like a grainy moon

following close behind.
At the bottom of the hill,
a little rain shining in

a corner of wind.
Now the upbeat counselor
passes around a basket

of rocks. My friend Dan,
the Vietnam vet, says,
I knew I wasn’t going to be smart

so boy I was going to be tough.
All his sentences are like that,
clean as autumn. Each afternoon

we sit in a circle. I take a rock,
I wish you were here,
and I pass the basket on.


This selection comes from the chapbook Then Winter, available from Bull City Press. Order your copy here. Our curator for August is Donna Vorreyer.

Chloe Honum was raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Her first collection, The Tulip-Flame (2014), was selected by Tracy K. Smith for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, won the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award and a Texas Institute of Letters Award, and was named a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. She’s also the author of a chapbook, Then Winter (Bull City Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review, and her awards include a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. She is currently an assistant professor at Baylor University.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013), as well as seven chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish from Redbird Chapbooks. She works as a middle school teacher in the Chicago suburbs.

THE WARDROBE’S BEST DRESSED: “THE ROMANCE OF SIAM” BY JAI ARUN RAVINE

Jai Arun Ravine

JIM THOMPSON, BANGKOK

He had become a sort of landmark himself, a personality so widely known, though he read every available book on the region, there are too many relatively safe ways to dispose of a person in Asia, since it has no clearly defined center and there is almost as much pleasure in seeming to be behind the scenes, as in being behind them,

that a letter addressed simply TO: JIM THOMPSON, BANGKOK found its way to him in a city of 3.5 million people, TO: GPS or Google Earth as a municipality translated into a play, he is a plot of land marked with gaffing tape instead of numbers, sketched as a series of scenes illustrated in a guidebook (read: novel), he is the center-justified title of a stage adaptation of a disposable city, THE TWELVE MEANINGS OF ESCAPE.

Jim directs 12 modern dance students, disposing of his own body as a character. He longs to pull the curtains and strike the set, TO: mark stage center-center with a glow-in-the-dark X, to construct a landmark out of three suitcases that the dancers then dismantle and manipulate. They read from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Gentleman in the Parlour and reenact random scenes at twelve minute intervals. Each scene must incorporate the three suitcases and the disposal of a body. In the play Jim enters a novel and reads himself to the dancers, who lyricize his disappearance. TO: enter a novel requires transferring the body into language, into a landmark that can be used to mark the page.

In the absence of a central figure, THE TWELVE MEANINGS OF ESCAPE centralizes twelve scenes, each defined by a hidden landmark that the twelve dancers must uncover and dispose of during the duration of the performance. TO: watch Jim’s play is to read his ineffable presence in the text, but to discover that the escaped body is unreadable—at the center but not centered—addressed TO: a final scene that remains unwritten, an epilogue that has been disposed and replaced with a landmark.

He had become the sort of landmark you read about in books, one of many White men who were lost, disposed, but who still occupy the center of scenes TO: which we are inexplicably drawn.


Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer and graphic designer. As a mixed race, mixed gender and mixed genre artist, their work arises from the simultaneity of text and body and takes the form of video, performance, comics and handmade books. Jai’s first full-length book, แล้ว AND THEN ENTWINE: LESSON PLANS, POEMS, KNOTS, re-imagines immigration history and attempts to transform cultural inheritances of silence. Their short film TOM/TRANS/THAI approaches the silence around female-to-male (FTM) transgender identity in the Thai context and has screened internationally. THE ROMANCE OF SIAM is their second book.

THE WARDROBE’S BEST DRESSED: “THE ROMANCE OF SIAM” BY JAI ARUN RAVINE

Jai Arun Ravine

THE ROMANCE OF THE SIAMESE DREAM

Overture

In a world between reality and imagination,
a woman creates a fiction to cover up her past
and a man creates a character that will forever change
his future.

Will they become who they are meant to be?
Only the romance of the dream will tell.

Act One

YUL BRYNNER is having one of his recurring dreams.

He’s on stage for the 4,634th performance of THE KING AND I.

The theatre is deserted. All the work lights and house lights are on.

It’s hot.

A traveling spotlight is trained on him.

YUL paces, barefoot, to the proscenium. The spotlight follows.

YUL paces, barefoot, to the scrim. The spotlight follows.

YUL paces, barefoot, to the wing stage right. The spotlight doesn’t follow.

Thinking he’s free of it, YUL turns his back on the spot, which immediately makes a beeline for him.

YUL swears he can hear the light chuckle.

A large rice cooker appears stage center. Its top is open. It is clean and empty. The electric cord spills out of its side. The metal is buzzing.

In the dream the rice cooker tells YUL its name is TIGER.

YUL paces up to TIGER, barefoot, exposes his chest, raises his brow, points his finger.

TIGER (telepathically): Wow, I’m so not impressed.

YUL (emphatically): Go on go on go on!

TIGER (telepathically): OK, so…I’m a wormhole. I didn’t show up last time you had this dream, so if I were you, I’d take a ride.

YUL can feel TIGER’s hot breath.

TIGER wants YUL to come inside.

YUL gingerly inserts his bald head into the cooker. He sheds his silk jacket, his silk fisherman pants, and his two gold anklets.

Act Two

YUL emerges out on the other side. He’s on stage again. The house lights and work lights are out. All the spots are focused on him, blinding white. He’s sitting on the floor, knees drawn up to his chin, naked and hairless.

TIGER is gone. In TIGER’s place is ANNA. The REAL ANNA Leonowens from THE KING AND I. ANNA is wearing a giant hoop skirt that fills two-thirds of the stage. She’s wearing a strange brooch set with two tiger claws. She’s here to teach YUL the art of acting.

ANNA (dismissively): What a child you are.

YUL (defensively): I used to be a boy. What I choose is my choice.

ANNA (excitedly): Do you want to pretend? Do you want to play a game of make-believe?

Backstage the dressing rooms are filled with white underwear and metal forks, all in disarray. ANNA directs YUL to go clean it up.

YUL is sweating. He can’t stack up all the forks perfectly, they keep slipping and falling. When YUL folds one pair of underwear, three more appear.

ANNA (inquisitively): Do you want to change your name?

YUL (decisively): People don’t know my real self, and they’re not about to find out!

At the proscenium appears a railing. ANNA and YUL lean on it and look out into the audience.

ANNA (reminiscing): I came to America from the same port as the Titanic. And I…

YUL (with gusto, completing ANNA’s sentence):…and I am the King of Siam!

YUL feels slightly ridiculous, like he’s in a blockbuster movie.

ANNA (in the manner of good advice): Reinvent yourself the moment you disembark.

Act Three

ANNA directs YUL to stop organizing the underwear and forks backstage and make a living poem out of it.

Instead, YUL writes a dead letter to ANNA’s grandmother.

YUL (poetically):

Dear Sleeping Dictionary,
Won’t you wake?
I need to look up the word, “Character.”
Army, British Bombay. Where is
The Company?
Uncle Tom,
Cousin Tom,
Husband Tom,
Sleeping Tom.
Penang, Prince of Wales.

The stage turns into a raft on the river, secured to the shore by ropes and chains.

ANNA (nostalgically): I wrote my biography in eight pages. My grandchildren believed every word of it. All it requires is that you act the part.

YUL (apprehensively): So, I pretend to be someone I want to be…

ANNA (definitively): …and I finally become that person, or she becomes me.

Finale (Ultimo)

ANNA stares at YUL with entire singleness of eye. In thirty seconds YUL grows a full head of hair that keeps growing down to the floor, across the stage, into the aisles. In thirty seconds ANNA has progressed to old age and is going blind. Her dark, deep-set eyes turn into balls of hard white wax.

 

HIGHLIGHTS: Yul Brynner performed the role of the King in The King and I approximately 4,633 times during the course of his lifetime. He was known to make up stuff about his life in interviews, like saying he was descended from Genghis Khan. The real Anna Leonowens was born in Bombay in working class military camps; her mother was most likely mixed race (half South Asian, half White). At some point in her life Anna decided to rewrite her past and told people she was born in England and was an upper class Englishwoman. Everyone believed her—even her grandchildren. The author is intrigued by the way these two people reinvented their lives, and how the characters they brought to life are wrapped up in The King and I saga.
DID YOU KNOW? This piece was written while listening to the Smashing
Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream (1993) album.


Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer and graphic designer. As a mixed race, mixed gender and mixed genre artist, their work arises from the simultaneity of text and body and takes the form of video, performance, comics and handmade books. Jai’s first full-length book, แล้ว AND THEN ENTWINE: LESSON PLANS, POEMS, KNOTS, re-imagines immigration history and attempts to transform cultural inheritances of silence. Their short film TOM/TRANS/THAI approaches the silence around female-to-male (FTM) transgender identity in the Thai context and has screened internationally. THE ROMANCE OF SIAM is their second book.

THE WARDROBE’S BEST DRESSED: “THE ROMANCE OF SIAM” BY JAI ARUN RAVINE

Jai Arun Ravine

Backup, Backdrop, Background (excerpt from “Christy Gibson”)

Christy Gibson is shooting a karaoke music video at Temple of the Emerald Buddha with eight backup dancers backing up until we hit the screen, fading into Christy’s background in Holland and the day, when she was six years old and she tripped, and hurt her pinky toe, but didn’t tell anyone, before her family moved to Korat and how she lost her shoes between Amsterdam and BKK International because her little suitcase never made it to baggage claim.

Christy is shooting a karaoke music video at BKK baggage claim where her backup dancers come through the rubber curtain, through the carousel and around on the silver conveyor belt studded with lights.

We are each a little part of that lost suitcase, and Christy’s name handwritten on the tag that failed to make it to her, and how all of her childhood in Holland was lost in that suitcase, and how in Korat she accumulated new things but did not have a container for them.

We spin around to replicate Christy’s feeling of loss, stick out our right hips, turn and smile into her back.

We rise out of our own suitcases, throw them onto Christy’s jet, close the hatch and walk back, replaying the video Christy’s father shot of the crevice in which the Emerald Buddha actually sits, in the dark, where women selling lotus flower told Christy how cute she was

and Christy tells us how the word for cute
has the word for face
and the word for love.

Or the word for next.
Or the word for rice field.
Or the word for [something without a translation]
depending on the tone.

We dance depending on middle, high or low consonant class, long or short vowel with no final, non-stop final or stop final and tone mark: middle, low, high, rising, falling.

Christy says we need to be more precise or else no one will know what we’re saying.

We imagine the golden spires of the temple obscured by Christy’s sunburnt blonde head, push record, and then push it again.

We mimic Christy’s shadows interrupting a projection of a photograph of the King set inside the crinkle of a white hand touching and asking how much? drug into the vendor’s mouth framed by a hundred Beer Chang tee shirts cross-fading into the fog machine synchronizing the movements of our sequins neon accent the Pantene PRO-V starshow ad pasted into the temple’s floating yard line dissected by the crisscross of flash cannon lenses and ESPN painting the dpi between strands of Christy’s hair against chedi ruins as a backdrop at the dentist

and then Christy says, “Good.”

Christy says, “I’m speaking your language.”


Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer and graphic designer. As a mixed race, mixed gender and mixed genre artist, their work arises from the simultaneity of text and body and takes the form of video, performance, comics and handmade books. Jai’s first full-length book, แล้ว AND THEN ENTWINE: LESSON PLANS, POEMS, KNOTS, re-imagines immigration history and attempts to transform cultural inheritances of silence. Their short film TOM/TRANS/THAI approaches the silence around female-to-male (FTM) transgender identity in the Thai context and has screened internationally. THE ROMANCE OF SIAM is their second book.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “The Romance of Siam” by Jai Arun Ravine

Jai Arun Ravine

BACKPACKERS 2: [WHITE GOES EAST]

When you say Thailand is tolerant of gender variance, you’re referring to the “ladyboy” you almost had sex with who turned into a zombie and threw an arsenal of coconut bombs at your head until you went into a coma. You were airlifted in a special issue Orchid helicopter operated by Thai Airways. When you came to, you got a massage (“that kind” of massage) and sat at a table with a tablecloth and silverware in a restaurant catering to White expats and served by zombies.

The real-life star of Beautiful Boxer would have been denied entrance because of her symbiotic polarities, but your pet boxer who runs into walls—there’s a place setting for him. You think “ladyboys” are so articulate and earnest and innocent, you want to take them out to restaurants to teach them how to use forks and knives, you want to take them home and make them cook with Lite Coconut Milk from Trader Joe’s, because the real kind makes you fat. You make them give you massages every afternoon at 3, you make them put tiny little orchids in your cocktails. “Devastating” and “beautiful” are adjectives used to describe orchids and the second kind of woman who finally learns how to be a boxer and defend herself on the street.

The number of White people learning Thai massage makes my back hurt. At the guesthouse there’s a sign saying “IF YOU BREAK THE RULES AND BRING ‘LADYBOY’ WE’LL CHARGE EXTRA IMMEDIATELY 1000 BAHT.” Coconut water is so trendy, they serve it at restaurants out of the can. Somewhere in the continental US, a Thai restaurant opens. Several seconds later, an orchid specialist orders take-out Pad Thai. Later that night, young green coconut pulp dries to crust on the specialist’s dead body—CSI: Bangkok.

After the break, you watch televised boxing matches and buy miniature tuk-tuk cabs made out of recycled Singha beer cans. You think “ladyboys” are one of the most fascinating Siamese breeds. You are the first to declare that, like the orchid, it is a Perfect Hybrid of Both Worlds. I’m going to box the living shit out of the best of both and leave you with coconut-sized bruises on your face, swollen so much like a coconut you’ll want me to hack at you just to relieve the pain. A massage would be nicer but I’m not fucking nice, I’m a beautiful boxer and I don’t give a shit about your fancy Thai restaurant chain or the new breed of killer orchid steaming up your bedroom like a “ladyboy.”

I’m Thailand’s # 1 tourist attraction: a “ladyboy” in a coconut milk can imported on Royal Orchid Airways. Excuse me, Sir, chair massage is the only way to fly. Please stow your authentic restaurant inside this box.

 

INFORMATION: “White Goes East” is a chapter heading in Maurice Collis’ book Siamese White (Faber and Faber Limited, London, 1936).
DID YOU KNOW? This destination references the film Beautiful Boxer (2004), about the life of Nong Tum Parinya, a Thai transgender woman (or sao praphet song, “second kind of woman”) who is also a professional boxer. The guesthouse sign was spotted by the author in Chiang Mai in 2011.


Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer and graphic designer. As a mixed race, mixed gender and mixed genre artist, their work arises from the simultaneity of text and body and takes the form of video, performance, comics and handmade books. Jai’s first full-length book, แล้ว AND THEN ENTWINE: LESSON PLANS, POEMS, KNOTS, re-imagines immigration history and attempts to transform cultural inheritances of silence. Their short film TOM/TRANS/THAI approaches the silence around female-to-male (FTM) transgender identity in the Thai context and has screened internationally. THE ROMANCE OF SIAM is their second book.

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