from Barbie Chang

from Barbie 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.


Recent writing

E Read More

PoetryMay 19, 2024

“Everything only connected by ‘and’ and ‘and’”: On Elizabeth Bishop and Disappointment

In prose that’s erudite and accessible, former Editor-in-Chief of At Length, Jonathan Farmer, explores why “[s]o many of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems end with something audibly, willfully unsatisfying.” Covering Bishop’s career from “The Map” (1946) to her late elegy for Robert Lowell, “North Haven” (1977), Farmer’s claim will send you back to Bishop’s poems with new eyes.

W Read More

PoetryFebruary 16, 2024


“[W]hat am I to do / about beauty, about / my fear that beauty // has made me arrange / every experience in a word / and image too neatly // for them to bear / much semblance to life,” Paisley Rekdal asks in this confessional, ekphrastic poem written in response to George Stubb’s famed painting of an Arabian thoroughbred, “Whistlejacket” (1762), on view at the National Gallery in London.

S Read More

PoetryFebruary 9, 2024


“[H]ow do they bear this heat Who / knows who can say what will change,” Joanna Klink writes of this poem’s eponymous plant, also known as trumpet pitchers, as she explores our climate crisis and her relationship with her father in language that is both colloquial and catastrophic, meditative and urgent.

T Read More

PoetryApril 11, 2023

Three Weeks

“I am going to try to write / A little. // I have nothing at stake but my life.” In Dawn Potter‘s sequence, a 19th century woman alternates between diary entries and poems, trying to make sense of her life, her obligations, her hunger for holiness, and a feeling of disaster or deliverance just out of view.

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.