America—died on February 14, 2018, and my dead mother doesn’t know. Since her death, America has died a series of small deaths, each one less precise than the next. My tears are now shaped like hooks but my heart is damp still. If it is lucky, it is in the middle of its beats. The unlucky dead children hold telegrams they must hand to a woman at a desk. The woman will collect their belongings and shadows. My dead mother asks each of these children if they know me, have seen me, how tall my children are now. They will tell her that they once lived in Florida, not California. She will see the child with the hole in his head. She will blow the dreams out of the hole like dust. I used to think death was a kind of anesthesia. Now I imagine long lines, my mother taking in all the children. I imagine her touching their hair. How she might tickle their knees to make them laugh. The dead hold the other half of our ticket. The dead are an image of wind. And when they comb their hair, our trees rustle.
Victoria Chang’s fourth book of poems, Barbie Chang, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2018. Other books are The Boss, Salvinia Molesta, and Circle. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship, and recently was awarded the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. She lives in L.A. and teaches within Antioch’s MFA Program. You can find her at www.victoriachangpoet.com.