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