Agnes once said, the silence on the floor of my house is all the questions and all the answers that have ever been in the world. I sit and wait for the floor to speak to me. But it just acts like a floor. The floor never testifies on my behalf, even though it has felt everything. Agnes says to give up facts, to have an empty mind. That if your mind is full of garbage, if an inspiration came, you wouldn’t recognize it. Agnes tried to avoid having ideas because they are inaccurate. Someone said that what torments us isn’t death but life. All along I have been preoccupied with the wrong thing. Maybe the five red bands are life. They wrap around my neck like someone’s arms. When Agnes said you just can’t be an artist if you can’t be alone, I dreamt of the Tahoe fire. I, in the middle of it, sparks falling from the sky like men, the ski lift swaying from thoughts. And I woke up, my mind filled with smoke, no people, and Agnes’s words. And the floor emptying my thinking like long division.
Untitled, 1978Victoria Chang
Illustration by Joey Gonnella
Victoria Chang is the author of a nonfiction book, Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief, and several books of poetry, including The Trees Witness Everything and Obit. She lives in Los Angeles and is the program chair of Antioch’s low-residency MFA program.