at Length

from Barbie Chang

—Victoria Chang

Barbie Chang Got Her Hair Done

Barbie Chang got her hair done for
the school auction

where people raise paddles made
with popsicle sticks

Barbie Chang was afraid sick of the
Circle since she heard of

their shopping for matching dresses
her heart told her

to let them be circular circulate only
with their particulars

avoid the peculiars so out of the nest
she flew into the auction

grinning against the wall in the corner
in came the Circle half

drunk tossing coins at baskets one in
pink another in green

one in orange one purple matching
martini barrettes a

perfectly clenching Circle glowing like
a rainbow that seemed

low enough to reach to touch Barbie
Chang would never admit

it but she still wanted the rainbow to rain
on her to wear bows in her

hair that meant she belonged somewhere
West she owed it to

her children to make friends to blend
into the deadened end

Barbie Chang’s Mother Made Her

Barbie Chang’s mother made her
wear two pair of

underwear no wonder she is weird
can’t fit in over

here still Barbie Chang is hopeful
hippingly so to be

included in the Circle smiling with a
mouthful of bees that

look from afar like braces each
day at school she

waits for the Circle holding her smile
while the bees rake

their stingers in her mouth it’s a myth
California is a

melting pot the Vietnamese plot from
Westminster the

Chinese from Irvine the Chinese are
spreading the Circle

is having weddings with each other the
Circle is weeding certain

plants out and maintaining the natives
the Circle is running

to the coast but there are no more boats
nowhere else to go there

is war even here there is terror land to
grab people to claim

millions of bodies rushing out of homes
like smoked bees

Barbie Chang Loves Evites

Barbie Chang loves Evites Paperless
Party Posts that host her

ego patch her holes she puts barrettes
on her heart so other

people will see her will hear her her
heart is made of hay is

disturbingly small held in its cage she
is never late when invited

her heart smells like moth balls jumps
at every broth bell her heart

growls more each day she trims it with
a number two its messy

work missing her aorta by a little bit so
her heart is always sort of

bleeding she is always sorting her email
for invitations once she

heard the Circle planning a birthday
party for a daughter she

stationed herself sipped water for days
waiting for the Evite

leaving her Kindle on as a nightlight it
glowed a blue garden on

the ceiling she let her guard down it never
made a ringing sound she

wasn’t proud never told anyone it wasn’t
for her daughter but

she heard the ice skating party was a hit
little girls going in figure

eights their breath coming out in little
clouds shaped like little

white hearts ready to combine with
another little white

heart nothing like this should be heard
those who have won

should pass the pins on to a new
generation station

themselves where they are no reason
to rate each other no

reason to let others in let others spin
the wheel it’s Halloween

again and time for chosen children to
wear matching costumes

they must not know their skin already
smells of the same perfume

Barbie Chang’s Mother Only Cares

Barbie Chang’s mother only cares
about money

who has it who has more forks in
the drawer land in

their hand a little city resides in
Barbie Chang’s hand

as she handed her life down to her
children the little city

wasn’t worth much slum mulch made
it unlivable but Barbie

Chang loved the lights at night her
hand filled with stars

animals stared at the glow and
none of them ever

wanted to bite her hand off since
the hand and its lights

made sense once a woman named
Millicent asked Barbie

Chang if her diamonique necklace
was real if the city

in her hand was real she was from
Connecticut and

told Barbie Chang she was the favorite
at the firm she always

asked Barbie which partner she was
working with why she

parted her hair down the middle always
asked her where she

was from Barbie Chang wished
she had a father

named Don Swan then she would
know how to respond

swimming in a pond twenty years later
it rains and from

below the woman’s words still beat onto
her body like snow

Once Barbie Chang Watched

Once Barbie Chang watched two
Chinese women fill

out stacks of raffle entries at the store
for the mower she

could understand their Mandarin
but Darren the worker

just laughed at them Barbie Chang
didn’t know whether to

laugh at the ladies or to fill out more
entries for the raffle she

didn’t need a lawn mower or a snow
blower the women at

school ask her if she knows of any
science classes for their

kids if her kids go to Kumon Barbie
Chang never uses

coupons loves croutons on her salad
her favorite holiday is

Halloween she can wear a mask and
bask that she lives in the

nicest neighborhood around it doesn’t
matter what round it is

she knows she can never win because
prizes always have eyes

Victoria Chang‘s third book of poems, The Boss (McSweeney’s), won the PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award. Her other books are Salvnia Molesta and Circle. She also published a children’s picture book, Is Mommy?, illustrated by Marla Frazee and published by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster. Her poems have appeared in various places like American Poetry Review, POETRY, Kenyon Review, New Republic, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Narrative. She lives in Southern California.

You can read an excerpt from Chang’s The Boss here.