Happiness (from the Innocent Love Series), 1999

Victoria Chang

Nerves light up my arms with no explanation. Only some people can see the lights.On the worst days, the nerves look like pitchforks. When I am performing happiness,they shock me. On those days, I wear long-sleeved shirts and cover my ankles.Depression is experienced. It is the CEO of feeling. All other feelings are directreports. My depression is IPOing next month. It hopes to raise $100 million so it canexpand into my future.Like all IPOs, it is dream-like and has a tagline that is about bettering society. Agnesliked the horizontal line better than other lines. I like it toobecause its weight is distributed so that more depression can hang fromit like laundry. The only way to see if my words are poems is if I crushthem into lines. I do this so no one can see my insides. I've learnedthat the words are only poems if, when I flatten them into a line, themeaning remains. In my need to know, I am surrounded by lines. Evena river is no longer water but a series of lines that sounds like a stream.

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Jay L. Clendenin

Victoria Chang’s new book of poetry is The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press). Her nonfiction book, Dear Memory (Milkweed Editions), was published in 2021. OBIT (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), was named a New York Times Notable Book, a Time Must-Read Book, and received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Poetry, and the PEN/Voelcker Award. It was also longlisted for a National Book Award and named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and lives in Los Angeles and is a faculty member within Antioch’s low-residency MFA Program.



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