Poem of the Week | January 01, 2008

This week’s poem is “Love Poem as Eye Examination” by Victoria Chang. It is previously unpublished. Chang’s second book of poems will be published in 2008 by the University of Georgia Press, as part of the new VQR Poetry Series. Her first book won the Crab Orchard Review Open Competition Prize in Poetry and was published by the Southern Illinois University Press in 2005, and it won the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award. Her poems have appeared in publications such as Paris Review, Poetry, Washington Post, Pleiades, The New Republic, New England Review, Triquarterly, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Best American Poetry 2005, and others. She also edited an anthology titled: Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, published by The University of Illinois Press (2004).

“I’ve always found going to the eye doctor’s office funny-the darkened room, the white light on the wall, the tiny letters in the last row, the doctor’s breath, and the similarities in choices. I wrote a poem ruminating on an eye doctor visit, and since I’ve struggled to write love poems on many occasions, I decided to work backwards and make the poem a love poem. This process helped me to write a love poem, although in the end, like many of my poems, there’s an acidic strain that runs through the spine of the poem.”

Love Poem as Eye Examination

The room became a raven until a white fire lit
the wall.  The doctor’s breath alarmed
and I was suddenly inside this bird, looking out
of its eye.  O doctor,
why do you set traps, map out what I see,
cage my broken eyes,
make clear the branch that was fire, the geese
that were windmills rotating?
Which is better: one or two, three or four?  What if
I don’t need choices?
What if I can’t see the letters-the P always looks
like an F.  Or the F is
really a P that has opened its floodgates.  What if
I am the F and my river never thins?
If there isn’t a last row, a disappearance?
Then I want his salt in my eye,
his hand that perforates the gate with paint, that
nails cabinets in our garage, that joins
our scavenged bodies and pulls them through
the flaming flue.