Home > Poetry > Barbie Chang Should Have Seen
Published: Fri Jul 1 2016
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Online 2016 Family Illness Loss
Barbie Chang Should Have Seen

Barbie Chang should have seen
            the signs should

have noticed the signs in the street
_           _ that were backwards

that were in a different language
_           _ should have noticed

the people hiding behind trees in front
_           _ of her mother’s house

her mother catching her breath after
_           _ a shower little pieces of

death that fell off of her like dust
_           _ for two years the car

never moved then her body hardly
_           _ moved out of the bed

death is fragmented is not a noun but
_           _ a verb its movements

are invisible Barbie Chang visited each
_           _ day with her wagon of

food guns ready to shoot the dragons
_           _ under the bed to shoot

the dementia out of her father’s head
_           _ she should have

seen the signs but was busy tending to
_           _ her children sleeping

with both eyes closed she was tired of
_           _ her mother tired of her

anger toward her father tired of her
_           _ father’s weather

his errors tired of their errands tired
_           _ of her lungs and their

refusal to open why do we kill flowers
_           _ for a funeral when there

is already so much death fifty people
_           _ came all the people

who never visited who never saw her
_           _ fill canisters with air

the hospice notebook said 7:14 can’t
_            breathe_ then 7:34 last

breath Barbie Chang never saw her take
_           _ her second-to-last breath

never saw her wait twenty seconds wait
_           _ for Barbie Chang to come

see her wait for Barbie Chang to punch
_           _ holes in her lungs

Barbie Chang couldn’t find the hole puncher
_           _ wanted to punch herself for

not singing to her for not medicating her
_           _ father for not believing her

mother about her father for not combining
_           _ the word death with an

object for thinking death is something
_           _ within itself something

containable like an eyeball is it better
_           _ for leaves to stay on

or fall off where were all the people where
_           _ was Barbie Chang when she

took one more breath when she blew
_           _ out her last wrath

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Victoria Chang’s  latest books include Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief (Milkweed Editions, 2021) and the poetry collection The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press, forthcoming 2022). Her collection OBIT (Copper Canyon Press, 2020) received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Poetry, and the PEN/Voelcker Award, and was longlisted for the National Book Award and named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize.  Her previous books of poems include the books of poems: Barbie Chang (Copper Canyon Press, forthcoming 2017); The Boss (McSweeney’s, 2013), winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award; Salvinia Molesta (University of Georgia Press, 2008), and Circle (Southern Illinois University Press, 2005). A 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, Chang holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College and an MBA from the Stanford School of Business. She is a core faculty member in Antioch University’s low-residency MFA Program. She lives in Los Angeles. She also writes children’s books. You can find her at www.victoriachangpoet.com. (updated 4/2022)

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