hair on green tiled floor near person's feet

Poetry by Stephanie Chan


The first time I felt attractive
I was 15 and got to tell the hairdresser
what to do for the first time

felt the thrill of sharp cold against my neck,
the weight brush across my shoulder and slide off
felt the ends settle above my ear

suddenly I was that J-Pop star
his face in all my friend’s folders
every netball captain at school,
hairband hanging off her neck

suave swaggering worshipped,

my classmates said no offence, but you looked better with long hair
but they wouldn’t understand how it felt to sit in that chair
with the realisation: no one can stop me.

Then that summer in the US I got a friend to run a razor up my head
to turn shoulder brushing ponytail into ambiguous fauxhawk
felt my hair fall away to settle at the top of my skull

I was sick of being the Asian girl
I wanted to be the Asian something or other,
the what is that even, for even that seemed to carry more power,

felt it all fall away to settle at the top of my skull:
there is something addictive about the feeling
of metal against scalp, something rousing
about the sound of buzzing behind your ear.

That was the summer old ladies kept calling me sir.
the summer I got away with a joyride on a stolen golf cart,
security guards on a wild goose chase through our Midwestern
town for a small Asian boy running amok.

Today my hair settles greasy
somewhere between a confusion of products,
compromise and my mother’s voice begging me,
stop! you are a girl so why can’t you look like one,
not some kind of something or other.

But I’ve already tasted the in between
I’m drunk off of my own reflection, high
on the power of keeping them guessing.

hair on green tiled floor near person's feet

About the author

Stephanie Chan is a queer non-binary poet from Singapore (and a few other places along the way) who has won poetry slams in Singapore and the UK. Stephanie is the founder of Spoke & Bird, a poetry night in Singapore which features local and international artists. Her work has been published in various journals and anthologies including QLRS, Corvid Queen, Griffith Review and Suburban Review. Her first collection, Roadkill for Beginners, was published by Math Paper Press in 2019. She tweets at @stephdogfoot and their website is

Photo by Andrii Leonov on Unsplash.

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