Icarus, a girl, talks to interviewers
after The New York Times‘ feature on the second Chinese female astronaut
You asked if I was afraid of the sun
melting my eye makeup.
I had waxed enough to know beauty burned
and some places were better left
untouched—questions, like ingrown hairs,
trapped under the skin in the wrong direction.
My father named me after my brother
but never made me wings, not wanting
to admit to his own misjudgment:
I did listen, and I flew better—oh the solitude
I had, not being father’s favourite son,
too loud, had Chang’e not been writing back.
The sun was too bright for my taste.
I packed my makeup (but not sanitary products)
and waited for the moon to wax,
its murmur tickling my nape. Of Chang’e’s
many stories, I knew she drank
her husband’s elixir to fly to the moon
just to escape the celebration sex
after he shot down those nine damned suns.
You thought she was running away
from domesticity. Did you ask her husband
to water their osmanthus tree,
or if eyeliners helped him aim better?
No. So why did you act shocked
as I ascended? Accuse Chang’e and I
for deviance. We no longer need
the safety of your approval. Now:
my skirt, opening upwards;
my breasts, anti-gravitational;
the stars; the glitter on my eyes,
free from your orbitary gaze. On a lucky day,
when the moon is red from the beads
floating around me, some of which
spatter in your face, you’ll know
I’ve shed your ill-fitting space suit.
The Tattooist (from CUTS: A Tattoo Lyric)
I let my friends’ children ink my back,
a noisy, wild mess, somewhere between a
playground and a bar’s toilet.
A boy slashed a drooping penis here, you
see, slightly below my shoulder blade.
He used to doodle erections everywhere:
his family’s house, his school’s wall, his
own assignments, my sketchbook even
though we’d just met.
So I told him, vandalize me
with an actual tattoo gun.
His eyes were wide, hands shaky
as he stabbed the machine
into my back, forging confidence.
It was his first flaccid penis,
and the last public penis he drew.
Tim Tim Cheng is a poet and a teacher from Hong Kong, currently reading the MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh, sponsored by William Hunter Sharpe Memorial Scholarship. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Berfrois, diode, The Margins, Cicada Magazine, Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre Weekly Poem, Cordite Poetry Review, and Ricepaper, among others. She is working on chapbooks which explore Hong Kong’s landscapes, as well as desire and rituals through the lens of tattooing. She translates and writes lyrics at leisure. timtimcheng.com.