Published on Academy of American Poets (

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


Victoria Chang

Victoria Chang is the author of The Trees Witness Everything, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2022; Dear Memory (Milkweed, 2021); and OBIT (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). The recipient of a 2017 Guggenheim fellowship, she currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Date Published: 2020-03-03

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