from The Boss

—Victoria Chang




[I once was a child am a child am someone’s child not my mother’s not]

I once was a child am a child am someone’s child not my mother’s not
my father’s the boss gave us special treatment treatment for something

special a lollipop or a sticker glitter from the toy box the better we did
the better the plastic prize made in China one year everyone got a spinning

top one year everyone got a tap on their shoulders one year everyone was
fired everyone fired but me one year we all lost our words one year my father

lost his words to a stroke a stroke of bad luck stuck his words used to be so
many his words fired him let him go without notice can they do that can she do

that yes she can in this land she can once we sang songs around a piano this land
is your land this land is my land
someone always owns the land in this land someone

who owns the land owns the buildings on the land owns the people in the
buildings unless an earthquake sucks the land in like a long noodle






[The boss called us at home the boss could call me anytime the boss]

The boss called us at home the boss could call us anytime the boss
told us to turn on the television not to go into work the boss told us about

the planes the buildings that met each other wept each other the people
trapped the boss’s voice shook the boss must have looked familiar like a

mother like a sister but the boss wasn’t our mother wasn’t our sister the shoe
didn’t fit her she could whimper did whimper did feel sorry for other people

could feel sorry for other people could vomit sadness when someone says
it’s personal when is it not personal about the person about the people when

the planes crashed into the towers the pilots’ bodies met a boss a CEO
their bodies pressed together their power latched together on the 54th floor

hating each other embracing each other like an accordion






[My father says the wrong things I say the wrong things my father thinks he]

My father says the wrong things I say the wrong things my father thinks he
is 42 not 69 my father was born in 1942 my father thinks his address is 1942

my father sits in a hospital he thinks he is at 1942 he thinks the year is 1942
that I am 1942 years old that his knee is 1942 he thinks his name is 1942 he

says he is in the hospital because of weight or maybe he means wait or lean
maybe he means he leaned on the toilet he was fixing and fell down he doesn’t

know where his nose is but he knows 1942 when I was 19 I wanted to be a doctor
in a few years I will be 42 and I will be afraid of doctors I can no longer think

of the right words to say my words come out of my mouth twisted turned in
spirals like a dancer wrapping her leg around a pole on some days the boss takes

our 1942 and turns it into 2491 on other days she turns it into 1429 and on the
worst days she smiles at us and her smile looks like a 9 turned on its side

with a cat tongue sticking out when asked to close his eyes my father points to the
white stack of papers when asked if his name is Adam he points to the papers

as if to say ask the papers that stay that live don’t ask me he no longer knows that
a Chinese man from Taiwan can’t possibly be named Adam or Bill or Bob or John or

Gus maybe he now thinks a Chinese man from Taiwan can be a CEO can be
a boss in America the kind of boss that others make maybe now he thinks his name is

Adam maybe that is why he named me Victoria






[Today my daughter wants to be a waitress when she grows up she doesn’t]

Today my daughter wants to be a waitress when she grows up she doesn’t
know that a waitress is not a boss that a waitress takes orders from everyone

that a waitress must run to a bell to the phone to the customer to the supervisor
who is super bossy and wears a visor with grease on it yesterday my daughter

wanted to be a pet doctor the Barbie book has fuzzy pets furry pets cute pets
with small noses the Barbie doesn’t show her missing finger from the cute pet that

bit it off the Barbie is not the boss the dog is the boss Ken is the boss of the dog
who likes the dog in a pink outfit who likes Barbie in little skirts with little hips

if a perfect woman like Barbie is not the boss then who can ever be the boss
even the man in HR the man who can fire everyone cannot be the boss because

he has a boss who hired him who can fire him and even the man who hired
the HR man has a boss who can fire him there are fires all over Japan right now

and water and fire and water and they both want to be the boss and all the bosses
in Japan lost their jobs lost their limbs bob in water no longer care about Bob the

boss in America no longer care about cost






Edward Hopper’s Conference at Night

The man sitting on the desk seems to have no eyes or they are closed or they have
been dug out the man sitting on the table sits in a way of a boss or perhaps he wants

to be the boss and the woman and man can help him the desks have nothing on
them but two wooden boards they hold the man and shadows no papers no tacks

the man has no stacks of anything the room can’t be his office it is a morgue for
desks people that have left laid off fired sacked axed let go why let go of the past

why must the past too be given a notice why can’t we live in the past in our ugliest
ruffle dresses the woman looks like a man maybe she will be a boss or maybe

it’s better to look like a woman but act like a man a boss once told me never to
act like a woman the woman stares beyond the man the man on the desk is looking

between the man and woman whatever they are conferencing about has passed is
the past the pair helped the man become the boss he lost touch with the pair who

lost touch with each other who were both laid off






[The boss wears wrist guards I risk carpal tunnel without them can’t]

The boss wears wrist guards I risk carpal tunnel without them can’t
see anything but her fingers palm hidden palm line of the liver line

of Apollo line of deposition hidden the line of the heart leaks out the end
of it sneaks out of the guard the black guard covers the heart line is it wavy

is it long and curvy broken is it broken mine touches my life line my heart
breaks easily my daughter’s heart line begins below the middle finger she is

selfish please don’t be a selfish boss please be a boss please be selfish the
middle finger is the longest the middle is used by those without power who want

it the fingers are stuck together once our neighbor lost his middle finger while
fixing a lawn mower no longer able to flip off someone the middle finger does

not resemble a bird the bird is something with power the bird can fly away






[The boss looks over us the boss likes us the boss lurks us the boss irks us]

The boss looks over us the boss likes us the boss lurks us the boss irks us
smirks us hurts us the boss smiles at us lies to us confirms her offer of

employment to us the boss gives us provides us preferentially us accommodates
us no animus no animal no nitpick she picked us and her and her to

knit together we tried to knit my father back together starting with I am Victoria
I am your daughter you have two daughters
I am I can I have to be knitted back together

professionally a professional who professes only when pointed to when asked to
provide feedback to the boss I take the feed from the bag and eat it I take the

feed back and ask for better tasting meat I am a flaw an obsolete definition of
a flaw is a burst of passion or a passing wind in an office a burst of passion can

only lead to the door out the door down the stairs through another door into
the passing wind where there once used to be a metal bull near a fountain with

a gold sphere and people eating lunches benches of people eating trusts people
covered with chalky dust






[The boss wears a white vest a white face through the hole of a white]

The boss wears a white vest a white face through the hole of a white
vest the boss keeps her body heat in the white down vest 700-fill-power

power down the boss the boss keeps her power her power is down today
the boss’s new boss doesn’t like her the boss’s old boss doesn’t like her it

doesn’t matter the boss keeps us down in her hand warmer pockets her
pockets filled with treats in the shapes of imported hearts we are all imported

from somewhere else the boss talks about our heritage her adage starts with
I think you are I think my age is four my cage is made of a tear-resistant ripstop

nylon shell four is a favorite of moms my four-year-old daughter still listens to
me I am the boss and I like it I see why the boss likes it






[The boss is a no fly zone unless the boss misses numbers poor performs]

The boss is a no fly zone unless the boss misses numbers poor performs
even if the boss wears terrible perfume the boss is protected the boss isn’t

a CEO the boss is a clot that meanders through a bloodstream weaving in and
out pushed along by someone else’s blood the boss’s boss doesn’t care the boss’s

boss’s boss works on his core at lunch on his jabs at lunch the boss’s boss’ boss’s
boss thinks the boss does a fine job the boss abuses the workers continues to

accuse the workers the workers continue to do a fine job the boss’s boss’s boss
just wants a fine job closes his outer lobe unless his son coughs like a sea at night

nose running green discharge boy tugging at his ear lobe like a string that opens a
parachute then he cares then he hears otherwise who cares












These poems originally appeared in the following journals:
Agni: [The boss is a no fly zone unless the boss misses numbers poor performs]
The Believer: [I once was a child am a child am someone’s child not my mother’s not]
Gulf Coast: [The boss looks over us the boss likes us the boss lurks us the boss irks us] and [The boss wears wrist guards I risk carpal tunnel without them can’t]
Missouri Review Online: “Edward Hopper’s Conference at Night”
Ploughshares: [The boss wears a white vest a white face through the hole of a white]
Smartish Pace: [Today my daughter wants to be a waitress when she grows up she doesn't] and [My father says the wrong things I say the wrong things my father thinks he]
Threepenny Review: [The boss called us at home the boss could call me anytime the boss]




Victoria Chang is a poet and writer living in Southern California. Her most recent book is Salvinia Molesta, published by the University of Georgia Press. Her first book is Circle, published by the Southern Illinois University Press. New poems will appear in Kenyon Review and American Poetry Review.