Anna Gurton-Wachter

speaking inquiry

I felt validated about not speaking


when I saw how speaking was for someone else


not a great thing at all


even in the doctor’s office


subway platform edge of reason


see what you did there


a complex line more than just the sum of narration


you said being alive was better you guessed


than being dead and that was scary


guesswork and the baby too was there


I’m always wondering how much babies know


we agree that they are magnificently smart


and that you can be smart and know almost nothing


I guess I’ll write a poem and obscure


these feelings compress them into tiny


erasures floodlights on seeing the dim


pencil marks that pretended to be whatever writing is


it’s like that time we went to the museum


and didn’t realize the art piece


wasn’t turned on


and we thought the blank screen


was beautiful and epic


we thought there was so much clutter


in the world generally


and finally someone was saying


something concise and open


that made us feel free


we danced in the light 


of the projector


watching our shadows


like we were in that advertisement


for music and youth


that didn’t exist yet


then someone came and flipped the switch


the artwork officially began illusion over


negated our movements


or recontextualized them 


sadness for a shrunken minimalism


every day a pedestal loses its monument


and it occurs to me that either one of us might die


while we are not in touch


the other left dangling in the before times


like that poem people read at funerals


that says remember me as I was


as if any person could coolly direct memory


and I realize something about poetry too


because I thought I had trivialized our 


experiences by writing about them 


but then I thought no maybe I’ve honored us 


and how could it so easily go both ways


I think about how there are some poets who say


casually that they don’t read that


much poetry and then there are poets


who mourn deeply this fact and say how worried 


they are about the poets who don’t read poetry


worried about an entire generation


lost to fatigue and the difficulty of the page


this poem is for my generation, we who 


long to have read what we’ve actually read


what does anyone mean by having spent time


alone in the antiquated sense


performance of a critique pointed inwards


we save all our true thoughts for another time


even in these most intimate circles

Anna Gurton-Wachter is a writer, editor and archivist. She is the author of Utopia Pipe Dream Memory (ugly duckling presse) as well as seven chapbooks, most recently My Midwinter Poem (clones go home). More info at