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by Victoria Chang

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 fourth book of poems is Barbie Chang (Copper Canyon Press, forthcoming 2017). The third, The Boss (McSweeney’s, 2013), won the PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award. Her other books are Salvinia Molesta (University of Georgia Press, 2008) and Circle (Southern Illinois University Press, 2005)She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017. (8/2017)

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