The Poetry Project

Haunted by My Own Absence


Imagine that it's an open mike, in a dimly lit club, on the Lower East Side. Imagine that it's my
first time ever going up. Imagine that it took all the courage that I have, and that I'm still
faltering. Imagine that I stand half in the spotlight, half in the shadow. Imagine that you cannot
see my face because it is bent towards a piece of paper held so low that it is as if I am staring
straight down into the floor. Imagine that when I finally begin someone in the middle of the
audience yells at me to speak up. Imagine that I move closer to the mike, but barely. Imagine
that as I read, the line breaks are where my voice breaks, when I pause to swallow speech, and
then continue. Imagine that this is my spoken word:

Haunted by my own absence
I see us three
standing by the side of an old country road
that is a dividing line.
On one side, an orchard gone fallow
on the other, blonde skeletons
rising up out of house size holes.

Haunted by my own absence
I see us three
me in the middle, she up ahead
turned around
freckles flashing, finger pointy ---
Tell her to go

Haunted by my own absence
I see you there, left alone
trembling by side of the road.

I do not remember where
we went.
I do not remember what
we did.
I only remember that
I did
because you do.

And now, imagine that I look up to face the shame of trying to apologize to someone who is not
even in the room.

Work from Boo: Ghosts and the Unconscious for Utopian Dreaming with Claire Donato & Adrian Shirk