In Their Own Words

Dorothy Chan “Triple Sonnet for Veronica Lodge’s Tigers”

Triple Sonnet for Veronica Lodge’s Tigers

               There are too many poems about fathers.
Or not enough. I used to hate mine until
               I remembered the fortune teller’s theory
that my father and I are symbols of each
               other—maybe this is why in my dreams
I say goodbye to him last whenever
               I go on a mission across the river—We’re
a Tiger Father and a Snake Daughter who
               aren’t supposed to get along, the insistence
of tigers that they’re the leaders of the zodiac—
               the secrecy of snakes, like how the idea of
living a discreet life resonates so much with
               queer little me. A lover asks if my father
knows that I’ve kissed girls. I tell him that

men don’t need to know everything. Tiger Dads
               always do the most—or is the magical four
letter word actually best in this case. As a child,
               I took home the gold from math competitions:
use the four numbers on the card to create 24—
               I’d watch other children cry when they lost
their rounds, stoic little me staring at their tears,
               their mothers hugging them, saying they could
now leave and go to McDonald’s. How sad it is
               to lose and eat McNuggets, is a feeling I’ll never
know, because my dad was always the last person
               I said goodbye to before rounds—my lucky symbol,
two rivers cross—I don’t want to get all Freud,
               but my mother and I get along better in life,

               while my father and I get along better in dreams,
both real and imagined. In Kowloon, he takes me
               to the McDonald’s where he won a gold pen
when he was a young man. Tiger Dads only breed
               winners, and more stories where I inherit qualities
from my dad: his high alcohol tolerance, his habit
               of four hours of sleep per night, the assumption of
authority everywhere I go—the raw ambition,
               and I feel like Veronica Lodge in the episode
when she visits the guidance counselor who tells her
               that Veronica and her father are parallels of each
other. Like Veronica, I’m the desirable girl walking
               around like I own the place, whose father would buy
me a baby tiger if he could—pushing me to win at life.

Reprinted from Return of the Chinese Femme (Deep Vellum, 2024) with the permission of the author and publisher. All rights reserved.

On "Triple Sonnet for Veronica Lodge's Tigers"

I’ve always read Veronica Lodge from Archie Comics as a woman of color. Long before the stunning-beyond-belief Camila Mendes became Veronica on Riverdale, I related to the comic book character’s sexiness, ferocity, stylishness, and ambition. In the age-old question of Betty Cooper vs. Veronica Lodge, I’m forever Team Veronica. Even as a child, I couldn’t see myself as a Betty: blonde, polite, and boring. Veronica was uninhibited. Commanding. Powerful. I studied her magnetic force on Archie. I’ll admit it makes me giggle that he knows he’s beneath her. This relationship dynamic is most apparent in the first episode of Riverdale when Mendes as Veronica, sporting a black cape and red lip, saunters into Pop’s Diner and time freezes…in Archie’s mind.

It cracks me up that Mark Consuelos played Veronica’s dad, Hiram Lodge, on Riverdale. My mother was a big All My Children fan, and it’s such a full-circle moment from my childhood. I don’t believe in coincidences. I also believe that whole critical theory classes could be taught on Hiram and Veronica’s Riverdale dynamic. I mean, don’t all writers have at least one “daddy issues” poem? I don’t have daddy issues, but in “Triple Sonnet for Veronica Lodge’s Tigers,” I am studying the odd parallels between ambitious fathers and their ambitious daughters. I’m also adding a Chinese belief layer onto the Triple: according to the Eastern zodiac, my father is a tiger, and I am a snake. Tigers and snakes aren’t supposed to get along.

My father and I often do not see eye to eye. I keep many secrets from him. But there are critical moments when I feel his tenderness and dare, I say, his tenderness does rub off on me. Once, in Kowloon, one of my aunts who feeds into patriarchal beliefs (unlike my mother, who has always celebrated my feminism), criticized me, saying in Cantonese, No one will ever want her because she is too smart. She should learn to shut her mouth and stop making men feel bad. My father got so angry. He and I went to McDonald’s. We never directly addressed the situation, but instead, he told me stories of his life as a young man in Hong Kong. We talked about my ambitions. We laughed. He told me he was proud of me.

My father is proud of me because I know who I am. I think about Veronica’s story arcs on Riverdale. She starts off as the desirable girl from New York, blowing every Betty out of the water. She ends up owning the diner. Then a speakeasy. Then in another timeline, she becomes a big time Hollywood studio executive. Let’s face it: to quote “Triple Sonnet for Taking the Money and Taking that Exit,” published in American Poetry Review, “Archie’s been an idiot for 80+ years.” As a child, I would win every competition I entered. I’d never be stuck crying in a McDonald’s because I lost—I’ll always take the win.

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