it happened because she was nice

she thought he was homeless

so she’d given him spare change


he’d spoken to her

over her?

in mandarin

before she said

english or japanese, please

i haven’t spoken mandarin since i was a kid


he’d asked about her dojo

tearing down the sign

she’d just put up

and asks her

for a job


she says no

and walks away


he finds her

at her dojo

the next day

and says

why don’t you teach kung fu

even though he knows

what a dojo is, how all the art forms she’s learnt are japanese


even though

she’s a samurai

a master swordsman

a warrior


he interrupts her classes

hitting a young man across the heels, even though he’d told her the pain of the cane

and how the bamboo made his bones burn

when he was being taught

in a monastery

in the mountains


but he apologises

but he’s good

but he’s kind

but he likes donkey stew from the remotest parts of china

and she does too


he fights to protect her

when men break into her dojo

looking for him

for his power

for his violence


the night nurse

tends to colleen’s wounds


he’s dangerous


he needs help


he’s traumatised


colleen nods


tells her

use your elbow, your shin,

use all your bones

strike your enemy

with something unbreakable

something like you


he comes in

smiling, grinning

says he brought dinner

she looks for the pizza box

for the white containers

wrapped in plastic bags


but instead

it’s white tablecloths

heavy linen napkins

and cutlery with weight


she looks at claire

with a look all women understand

and can read in a breath


the look says:



and claire grins

and says i’m starving




her samurai code says

men must grudge money

for riches hinder wisdom

but there’s a leak under her sink

and rent is due

and the men of the old tokogawan period

have never lived in new york city


she starts fighting in a cage

for money

taking down men twice her size

and three times her weight

and it feels good

and she’s good at it


she’s crouching tiger

daughter of the dragon


when she mentions this to danny

he says he must protect her

and buys her building


she realises

with a sinking feeling

he’s her landlord now

he can come into her dojo

into her home

whenever he likes


but he’s nice

and kind

he just wants to protect her

and he kisses her

and she kisses him


he’s never had sex before

he’s so eager

he almost hurts her


so she teaches him

and he’s sweet

and he’s gentle

and he has so many ideas

of what he wants to do to her

and with her

and inside her


that she giggles

and holds his hair

in her hands

curls winding

around her fingertips


but still more people come

after him

after his power

after his violence


and his phone calls to her

become more desperate

and more distraught



i need you






you can’t leave


she retells all this

in the lucky star super coffee cafe

in new york city

to a man with red-tinted glasses

whose business cards are embossed with braille

who dances around legal terms like a crane


she leaves the cafe

thumbing his card

kept under her pillow


while it’s too hot to sleep

she turns the phrase

emotionally manipulative

over and over on her tongue


the one her therapist gave her

after danny left


and she wonders

in the apartment

by her damaged dojo


if she really could

start over again



her will replies


i will be enough


coffee grounds

underneath my fingernails


and a metalhead

blow-drying his hair


every night

in the basement



the hum of the hairdryer


in between breaths


i feel safe here

streaks of grease

on spartan bodies

snarky comments


strict instructions

touch this

suck that


a smirk

a half-laugh


you fag


little glances

ass grabs


just kidding

only joking

but don’t stop



spot me

at the gym

looks good

right buddy?


watch me

watch my body

in the shower


talking about sex

with my girlfriend

which is great,

by the way,

just great

her tits are like

and her ass is like

i mean

am i right?



have you ever

  1. pissed on yourself

in the shower

2. sent a snapchat

from a stall

3. took a girl from behind and pretended

they were

someone else?


if masculinity is so toxic

why does it



so good



there’s nothing like

an inside joke

to make you feel

like an outsider


and often

if people explain them

it only serves

to isolate me more


to remind me

of pop culture

i wasn’t there for


of shows

i didn’t grow up



of all the pointless things

i missed


of all the tests

i’ll never pass