Victoria Chang’s “Obit”

red tomato bundle
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Obit by Victoria Chang


Caretakers —- died  in   2009,   2010

2011,    2012,     2013,    2014,     2015

2016, 2017, one after  another.  One

didn’t     show   up     because     her

husband was in prison. Most others

watched the clock. Time breaks  for

the living  eventually  and they  can

walk out of doors.   The  handle  of

time’s  door  is hot   for  the   dying.

What use is a door if you can’t exit?

A  door   that   can’t   be   opened  is

called a  wall.  My  father  is  on  the

other side of the wall. Tomatoes are

ripening on the other side. I can see

them through the window  that also

can’t   be opened.   A    window  that

can’t   be  opened   is   just     a   see-

through wall.   Sometimes we’re on

the inside like a plane.   Most of the

time,   we’re  on   the   outside   like

doggie day care.  I don’t know if the

tomatoes are the   new  form  of his

language  or  if   they’re   simply for

eating.    I can’t   ask   him   because

on the   other side,    there   are   no

words.   All I can  do is  stare  at the

nameless,   bursting   tomatoes  and

know they have to be enough.


First appeared in Poetry (July/August 2018) Used with permission of the author.


Victoria Chang’s fourth book of poems, Barbie Chang was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2017. The Boss (McSweeney’s) won a PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award. Her other books are Salvinia Molesta and Circle.  She also edited an anthology, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. Her poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, POETRY, Believer, New England Review, VQR, The Nation, New Republic, TinhouseBest American Poetry, and elsewhere.  She received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship in 2017, along with a Poetry Society of America Alice Fay di Castagnola Award in 2018 for her manuscript-in-progress, OBIT.  She also received a Pushcart Prize for a poem published in Barbie Chang.  She is a contributing editor of the literary journal, Copper Nickel and a poetry editor at Tupelo Quarterly.

Her children’s picture book Is Mommy? (Simon & Schuster), was illustrated by Caldecott winner, Marla Frazee and was named a NYTNotable Book. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and her weiner dogs, Mustard and Ketchup and teaches within Antioch University’s MFA Program.  She also serves on the National Book Critics Circle Board.