OBIT [Frontal Lobe]

My   Father’s   Frontal    Lobe—died
unpeacefully of a stroke on June 24,
2009 at Scripps  Memorial Hospital in
San Diego, California.  Born January 20,
1940, the frontal lobe enjoyed a good
life.  The frontal  lobe  loved being  the
boss.  It tried to talk again but someone
put a bag over it.  When the frontal
lobe died, it sucked in its lips like a
window pulled shut.  At the funeral for
his words, my father wouldn’t stop
talking and his love passed through me,
fell onto the ground that wasn’t there. 
I could hear someone stomping their
feet.  The body is as confusing as
language—was his frontal lobe having a
tantrum or dancing?  When I took my
father’s phone away, his words died in
the plastic coffin.  At the funeral for his
words, we argued about my
miscarriage. It’s not really a baby, he
said.  I ran out of words, stomped out
to shake the dead baby awake.  I
thought of the tech who put the wand
down, quietly left the room when she
couldn’t find the heartbeat.  I
understood then that darkness is falling
without an end.  That darkness is not
the absorption of color but the
absorption of language.


Copyright © 2020 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 3, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My father had a stroke maybe twelve years ago—he's had a few brain bleeds since then and about twenty falls, and I've noticed I like counting as a way to make order out of the disarray that is illness and death. This poem is part of a group of poems named OBIT, shaped in the form of newspaper obituaries written after my mother died about five years ago. I wrote a bunch of these OBITs to try to distill grief, to make sense out of things that didn't (and still don't) make sense. I was just talking to my workmate today about illness being a series of little deaths. Here in this poem my father's frontal lobe dies, and is just one of the many little deaths along our journey together.”
Victoria Chang