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 @anna.as.metaphor / annagw.com.
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