to paint like picasso before 1904

   there is a species of tavern where drinkers make disparaging remarks about chinese

immigrants. it is patronised by a squadron of pirates of otherwise sweet temperament, who

truck their goods with whomever they please.

   baring dog-yellow teeth, they sit in plastic fold-up chairs in cheap t-shirts designed

by europeans unmolested in canton.

   each ship at the bar plays furiously, leaving a trail of wild colonial girls cruelly

strangled after the first wash.

   in the wake of their missionary grandmothers, the risk these women take is

calculated on trigonometrical principles. female players have the option of wearing cones so

they don’t get kissed for no reason.

   everyone looks for their partners online these days, including an entire class of

whining feminists for whom postpartum incontinence has never been a problem, but who

nonetheless kegel jade eggs at every opportunity.

   it’s hard for these women not to feel violated by the knowledge that their dna is

half-man, but the smarter chicks check their purses of emotional labour in (the taverns’) tiny

grimy bathrooms and suspend intercourse by returning to campus via the victorian roads.

   in high pollen weather, with abscesses fit to burst, they heroically collaborate in their

efforts to arrest the flames.

   after years of feckless liaisons, some of these women set sail for the orient. landing

in the earl’s court, they feel secure in their portion of comparatively uncontaminated


   with contempt in equal parts for men and aliens silently stoning their gallbladders,

they manage to live peacefully, albeit corpulently, by a calendar of saints for years under a

special licence to paint like picasso before 1904.


Note: These two poems include phrases derived or borrowed from Davis, John Francis. The Chinese: A General Description of the Empire of China and its Inhabitants. Vol. 1. London, 1836.






Grace Yee

Grace Yee teaches in the writing and literature programs at the University of Melbourne and at Deakin University. She is currently a Creative Fellow at the State Library of Victoria. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Meanjin, Rabbit, and Poetry New Zealand Yearbook.

More by Grace Yee ›

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