Of Victoria Chang’s third collection, The Boss (McSweeney’s Books, 2013), G.C. Waldrep writes, “Victoria Chang is to the business world of 21st-century America what Julian of Norwich was to medieval European Christianity: a shocking herald, an empathetic lens.” A Guggenheim fellow, poet, editor, and children’s book author, Chang has written five books of poems including The Boss, winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award, Barbie Chang (Copper Canyon Press, 2017) and, most recently, Obit (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), nominated for the 2020 National Book Award and named a best book of the year by NPR, TIME Magazine, and Publishers Weekly. Chang currently works as the Program Chair of Antioch University’s MFA Program and lives in Los Angeles with her family.
Sadness—dies while the man across
the street trims the hedges and I can
see my children doing cartwheels. Or
in the moment I sit quietly and listen
to the sky, consider the helicopter or
the child’s hoarse breathing at night.
Time after a death changes shape, it
rolls slightly downhill as if it knows to
move itself forward without our help.
Because after a death, there is no
moving on despite the people waving
us through the broken lights. There is
only a stone key that fits into one stone
lock. But the dead are holding the
key. And the stone is a boulder in a
stream. I wave my memories in, beat
them with a wooden spoon, just for a
moment, to stop the senselessness of
time, the merriment, just for a moment
to feel the tinsel of death again, its dirty
The Blue Dress—died on August 6,
2015, along with the little blue flowers,
all silent. Once the petals looked up.
Now small pieces of dust. I wonder
whether they burned the dress or just
the body? wonder who lifted her up
into the fire? I wonder if her hair
brushed his cheek before it grew into a
bonfire? I wonder what sound the body
made as it burned? They dyed her hair
for the funeral, too black. She looked
like a comic character. I waited for the
next comic panel, to see the speech
bubble and what she might say. But her
words never came and we were left with
the stillness of blown glass. The
irreversibility of rain. And millions of
little blue flowers. Imagination is
having to live in a dead person’s future.
Grief is wearing a dead person’s dress