Passage by Victoria Chang
Every leaf that falls
never stops falling. I once
thought that leaves were leaves.
Now I think they are feeling,
in search of a place—
someone’s hair, a park bench, a
finger. Isn’t that
like us, going from place to
place, looking to be alive?
I can’t remember how many times I’ve found myself being grateful to be alive this year. It might seem a small thing, that sliver of joy I hold close to my chest while the rest of the world burns—
Every kiss that lands on my body I receive with deep delight. May kisses rain down on me forever, I sometimes pray, hesitant to ask for tenderness yet I ask all the same.
To be alive—that’s all we can ask for. And I ask it, again and again, for myself. For brothers and sisters who are rooted out of their homes. For people who find themselves alone at this time of the year. And for you, dear reader—for you.
This poem appeared in The Trees Witness Everything by Victoria Chang, published by Copper Canyon Press, 2022. Shared here with profound gratitude.
“A lover of strict form, best-selling poet Victoria Chang turns to compact Japanese waka, powerfully innovating on tradition while continuing her pursuit of one of life’s hardest questions: how to let go.
In The Trees Witness Everything, Victoria Chang reinvigorates language by way of concentration, using constraint to illuminate and free the wild interior. Largely composed in various Japanese syllabic forms called ‘wakas,’ each poem is shaped by pattern and count. This highly original work innovates inside the lineage of great poets including W.S. Merwin, whose poem titles are repurposed as frames and mirrors for the text, stitching past and present in complex dialogue. Chang depicts the smooth, melancholic isolation of the mind while reaching outward to name – with reverence, economy and whimsy – the ache of wanting, the hawk and its shadow, our human urge to hide the minute beneath the light.”
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