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1 poem

by Anna Gurton-Wachter

Anna Gurton-Wachter is a writer, editor and archivist. Her first full length book, Utopia Pipe Dream Memory, is forthcoming in December 2019 from Ugly Duckling Presse. She is additionally the author of five chapbooks, most recently Spring Bomb from dancing girl press. Other recent work has appeared on Social Text, Ginger Zine, Deluge, and Vestiges. She makes the online poetry and art journal Counter Poetry and is a curator for the Segue reading series. Anna lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from the street on which she was born. More info /

This poem was awarded the 2019 Peach Silver in Poetry by guest judge Dorothea Lasky.

"This poem is mystical, scary, and funny. It follows along in a glorious winding way where even though the logic is associative, we are still certain that someone knows where we are going and we are simultaneously both safe and not safe. I love poems like this because they show us how memory and emotion affect our experiences more than any other sense of “knowledge.” I love how the poem starts with shit (described so faithfully) and then ends with two lonely people knowingly / unknowingly in love with each other just by being human. Perhaps the beginning and end of the poem start/end in the same space and with the same sentiments, and this poem completes a holy cycle. Whatever it does, this poem is a masterpiece."


Poem About Architectures, Faces, And Sound

someone took a shit in the foyer


of the office building I work in


it’s been there for a week now


nobody knows whose job it is


to get rid of it so it is developing


a new color and smell, a hard case


around it like an ancient fossil


I tell my coworker I’m not sure


I deserve pie and she puts a cookie


on my desk shaped like a bus


meant to celebrate mobile health


centers where people can freely 


get tested for STDs and other services.


even if we knew whose job it was,


would we tell them? my other coworker


says he doesn’t think it’s right to ask


anyone to clean up shit and we all nod.


I start to read an article about student debt


forgiveness but I can’t get through it,


I hadn’t known what was brewing, 


there is a kind of love so filled with rage


that I can’t even look at your face


even as it exists in my mind.


when I get home from work I put on


my mother’s robe, the one she wore


every day while we cleaned the house,


listened to the Temptations with 


a capital T. suddenly I have the urge to ask—


on whom can we depend for the


violence we needed yesterday? not sure


where that thought came from, what it means


why I’m now singing it like it’s a song I know.


remember the time I left the state


as a pre-teen and didn’t tell anyone?


just left and my parents didn’t notice I was gone?


when I got back they said, where were you?


were you gone? did you go somewhere?


yes I left the state, the country, my body.


where I grew up the buildings were so large


you could almost not know who was inside with you. 


that time we figured out we’d been robbed 


because our tiny portable TV was missing. that time 


the dog came towards us with a rat in his mouth. that


time someone called us up to tell me


that they could see me masturbating


through the windows. my mother couldn’t


understand how I had learned shame when


she hadn’t taught it to me.  I picture my mother 


still in there frozen in time, working on a painting


never having time to paint.  very few people 


live like that anymore.


yesterday she said it again:


she’s done being a mother, wants out—


if anyone gets to leave it should be me,


my dad said. the building is a shrine


to some idea I don’t know yet, still


haven’t learned. have you ever 


listened to the lyrics? 


my dad wanted to know


what they say, what they say


papa was a rolling stone


wherever he laid his hat was his home


mama didn’t lie no, no, she didn’t lie


the songs we knew by heart,


our voices mixing with the record.


it wasn’t dinner if there was no meat.


I don’t know why I’m so stuck in the past,


that building looms, I blame the checkered robe


but it could be anything, this city, the train,


trying to figure out who is responsible for what.


I go for a walk and it’s hard to tell


what is damp discarded debris,


what someone’s home.


a man laying on cardboard spits his


orange seeds at me forming a 


momentary fruit archway connection.


just another part of his day or


practice or unintelligibly he manages


to invent a new parameter


inside of which his gesture makes so much sense to me.


I say: you’re just what I needed just now.


when I left the state spontaneously I


discovered a new kind of being in the world.


my friend told me to watch my surroundings,


the party, like it was a movie or an art piece


myself only a viewer, someone he was protecting he thought


from all the drugs and sex and running around naked.


I thought I didn’t know what kinds of options


there are for fun or anything when you leave a city,


what happens when the landscape is dewy and the grass is wet,


early lessons in watching the close up like it’s far away


and now I say it to myself: did you leave?


are you gone? where did you go?


the way you exist in my mind recedes and returns


I take the robe off in front of the window


look across and see a man come home. 


it’s midnight and he pours himself a bowl


of cereal in his underwear. he eats it facing out


seeing my face layered against his reflection. it is 


pleasing to me, how we become a hybrid thing somewhere in between

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