Dumb Luck & other poems by Christine Kitano

Chapbook Poem: Disguise by Christine Kitano


When I bought the dress, I envisioned myself
Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, midline

embraced and buckled, spinning through
the Piazza della Rotonda, eating an ice cream

on the Spanish Steps (only the scoop, she discards
the cone), her waist that impossible vanishing

center, the pinprick pupil of an iris, the ink-
dark core of a pink anemone. How I longed

for the ease of that body on screen, the razor-
erect posture ferrying her ballerina figure

from scene to scene. What daughter isn’t taught
to want this, to want to be this

princess in disguise. Of course, the dress never
fit. Even when it zipped, it puckered

around the hips and slumped from my shoulders
like loose bandaging. But I bought it,

imagining I’d one day be the type of person
to wear it, a person it might have been designed to fit.

If I didn’t see your face, I would have thought
you were a white girl
, my mother says

when she pulls in to pick me up at LAX,
and she’s grinning, it’s a compliment. She’s filled

my childhood bedroom closet with dresses
from the thrift store, old prom

and bridesmaid gowns in garish colors,
each smelling of stale perfume, sweat,

baby powder, and disinfectant. She slides
one off a hanger and hands it to me—it’s

magenta, a slinky material that writhes
in my fists like an animal. She begs me to try

it on; despite knowing what this will lead to
I relent, pull the cold satin to my shoulders,

brace for that sharp intake of breath then
the zipper’s whine as she eases it, urging

me to suck it in, be thinner, be prettier, be
like a white girl, pleading to a power

that is beyond me but I do what I can
to obey, stand stick still in the dread

blank space before the fabric rips,
the metal teeth seize, a force gives up

its claim and the body—my body—
defiantly reassumes its shape.

(This poem was first published by Quire.)

About the Poem

Christine Kitano

Author Bio

Christine Kitano is the author of the poetry collections Birds of Paradise (Lynx House Press) and Sky Country (BOA Editions), which won the Central New York Book Award and was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. She is coeditor of They Rise Like a Wave (Blue Oak Press), an anthology of Asian American women and nonbinary poets. She is an associate professor in the Lichtenstein Center at Stony Brook University and also serves on the poetry faculty for the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

From Dumb Luck & other poems

Dumb Luck & other poems by Christine Kitano

Christine Kitano’s Dumb Luck & other poems offers a portrait of a thirty-something Asian American woman who finds herself living in the relative safety of upstate New York before and during the pandemic. In one poem the speaker reflects on current events (the ongoing pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, the surge in anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S.) and contrasts these with the peace of rural New York, wondering, “Is this / the reward for good luck, just a more / comfortable survival?” The poems in this collection orbit around this question, providing both lyric and narrative explorations on luck, guilt, and survival. Ultimately, these poems delve into how the otherwise mundane questions of selfhood and identity for a gendered and racialized body take on greater urgency during times of increased social unrest, panic, and violence.


New Poetry Books (5/7/24)