LAST NIGHT I DREAMED I was a child. Mother on the front porch, watering flowers. Daddy on the couch, book fallen to the floor. Too young for words, I know nothing of their worlds. Ornithology. Site fidelity. Geraniums. Faith. I know nothing yet of the split between science and God, between men and women, between want and need. Home is a set of sensory perceptions: the rough-smooth texture of my father’s wool socks; bright red tomatoes on the windowsill; my mother humming “Abide With Me” as flowers outside remain abundant, carrying full green leaves.
Victoria Chang’s collection, Obit, seems to have anticipated the prolonged good-byes of 2020. In it, Chang says good-bye to loved ones, feelings, objects—everything we feel and know, who we were and where we’re heading—especially when someone we love is dying, and our sense of awareness is heightened.
This stunning book-length poem, broken up into 103 sections, examines the grief and trauma associated with losing a young sister from suicide. Threaded also through these lyrics is a conversation with Paul Celan’s Selected Poems and Dante’s Inferno.
The shoemaker labors over his leather, his work./A singular lightbulb illuminates his hands, like a ner tamid,
Hallmark does not make a card for this/for what we mean to each other,/for what we do when my kids are asleep./We are not married. Not husband and wife.
The satellites have been turned/off turned away from/other satellites.
It was me on Cookman Ave. that night/the newscaster was in the news/for what apparently everyone had always known
I did not consider the fact/That for the rest of your life you would only get older/If I’d been thinking, I would have held in my hand
In darkness / empirical evidence underhand / a fingertip rubs black / but not ink.