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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 15, 2018.
About this Poem 

“My mom passed away in 2015 of pulmonary fibrosis, and she had been ill for a long time. When she died, it hit me pretty hard, much harder than I ever would/could have imagined. Nearly a year later, I felt an urge to write some of these ‘OBITs’ because I felt everything around me had died. We picked a nice dress for her for the funeral. I often wonder what happened to that dress and wish I could have it back. It was a dress with blue flowers. The line ‘Imagination is having to live in a dead person’s future’ was inspired by Richard Siken’s line ‘I live in someone else’s future’ from War of the Foxes.”
—Victoria Chang

OBIT

The Blue Dress—died on August 6,
2015, along with the little blue flowers, 
all silent. Once the petals looked up.  
Now small pieces of dust. I wonder 
whether they burned the dress or just 
the body? I wonder who lifted her up 
into the fire? I wonder if her hair 
brushed his cheek before it grew into a 
bonfire? I wonder what sound the body 
made as it burned? They dyed her hair 
for the funeral, too black. She looked 
like a comic character. I waited for the 
next comic panel, to see the speech 
bubble and what she might say. But her 
words never came and we were left 
with the stillness of blown glass. The 
irreversibility of rain. And millions of 
little blue flowers. Imagination is having 
to live in a dead person’s future. Grief is 
wearing a dead person’s dress forever.

Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Victoria Chang

Victoria Chang

Victoria Chang is the author of Barbie Chang (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). She will be the Poem-a-Day Guest Editor in May 2019, and she lives in Southern California.

by this poet

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The Clock—died on June 24, 2009 and
it was untimely.  How many times my
father has failed the clock test.  Once I
heard a scientist with Alzheimer’s on
the radio, trying to figure out why he
could no longer draw a clock.  It had to
do with the superposition of three

poem

Ambition—died on August 3, 2015, a
sudden death. I buried ambition in the
forest, next to distress. They used to
take walks together until ambition
pushed distress off the embankment.
Now, they put a bracelet around my
father’s ankle. The alarm rings when
he gets too close to the

poem

Clothes—died on August 10, 2015.  We
stuffed them into lawn bags to donate. 
Shirt after shirt, button-down after
button-down, dress after dress, limb
after limb.  A few leapt out to me like
the flame from a nightmare, the kind of
flame that almost seems human in its
gestures.   I