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 @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."

-DOROTHEA LASKY

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