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Published: Sat Jul 1 2017
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Obit [“Optimism. . . .”]

Optimism—died on August 3, 2015, of monotony.  Only later did my sister tell me that each time before she would fly home, she and my mother would cry together.  The one time my mother cried to me, I said, the doctor’s wrong, you don’t know how long—it could be a year or more.  She didn’t stop crying.  I got up and left the room.  Outside, three floors below, behind the building, a family was celebrating something in their yard. Piñatas, music, children momentarily suspended above Earth in a bounce house.  That summer, we were not on Earth, but pacing in a building above it.  I was so afraid their happiness would rise up through the window like steam.  People in a city can spend a lifetime never actually touching the earth once. I could hear the thumping of the sticks on the piñata. Once, a happy anticipation, altered to the inevitability of the candy dropping.  Now I close my eyes and try to remember the optimism of the thumping, the origin of things.

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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