When Yuhua Hamasaki Went Home by Grace Lau

when a Chinese drag queen
sashays into the Drag Race workroom
our ancestors clutch their jade pendants but
no one says anything because
our men have been painting their faces and
singing in soprano since
the Six Dynasties


when my grandma performed
in 粵劇1
she swung a sword as man
wept as woman
sang as both
Shakespeare isn’t the only
dragulous form of theatre


Chinese girls won’t spill the tea
is for serving your elders
and the dim sum table
is no place for incompetence


Chinese girls are good
Chinese girls are submissive
Chinese girls will do your taxes
and fill your prescriptions
because survival doesn’t always
look like
a war


yuhua / 玉花 / jade flower
Yuhua / 余華 / just another man’s name
even our mother-
tongue is
a drag queen


yes, a Chinese queen calling herself Yuhua Hamasaki
is strange
but maybe it’s no stranger
than Chinese characters in a Japanese alphabet
         kanji / hanzi2
maybe it’s no stranger than how we take
the names of those who bruise us
         husbands / fathers / Nanjing
maybe it’s no stranger than men saying
to me almost everywhere I go


the day RuPaul told the first Chinese drag queen
in ten seasons of Drag Race
to sashay away
the sky blushed
black and white
a small, familiar ache
for the Chinese girls who are not good, not submissive
who aren’t ashamed
to be hungry

my brother-sister, drag-
           on queen
this   is
for us



1Chinese opera

2Chinese characters used in Japanese writing


Copyright © Grace Lau. Originally published in Frontier Poetry (2018).


Grace Lau is a Hong-Kong-born, Chinese-Canadian writer living in TkaRonto, part of the territory of the Mississaugas, the Anishnabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. Her work has been nominated for the Best New Poets and Best of the Net Anthologies and is published or forthcoming in Frontier Poetry, Arc Poetry, Sonora Review, Mud Season Review, and elsewhere. Find her on gracelau.space. Find Grace on Instagram & Twitter.

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