The Poetry Project

Anna Gurton-Wachter


a poet friend of mine introduces me at a reading

as someone who has a cool job

and who isn’t available for sex

there’s a gasp in the room

the poet friend stumbles and

says they didn’t have enough coffee today

but anyway here she is, Anna, to read poems

all the way from New York and I’m

momentarily stricken with panic

because I can’t figure out if I’m supposed

to address what just happened or, as I’d

prefer to do, just ignore it and read my poems

particularly because I’m in the Bay I think

here they will surely think me not very

interesting not very strong if I don’t say,

“well that was fucked up,” or something

but I don’t say it because I can’t quite

figure out the words and this friend I think

surely they will apologize later after

the reading they will say “oh my god

I can’t believe I introduced you

by saying you are not sexually available,”

but this doesn’t happen

instead we go to a party and the poet friend

has a brief exhibitionist moment that

while I’m really high and my mind is

pretty expansive I wonder if it

can be interpreted as an apology

an abject moment of sacrifice

substituting my sexual taken-ness

with an offering of their availability

I decide I’m making more complex

what is at heart very simple

I go back to my cool job and I go back

to New York and then a few days later

I’m in a poetry workshop about meditation

and its relationship to writing. the workshop leader

wants to know why I’m there. Why are you here?

without meaning to I start to cry

“I want to feel good about the poetry

community” the workshop leader nods

and all the workshop participants nod.

the next day I decide to write an email

to the poet friend who introduced me

I say— thank you so much for hosting me

and setting up this reading for me

but I also want to acknowledge

what happened – what you said was disappointing—

and the poet friend responds immediately

by saying that I clearly don’t get that things in the Bay

are more casual than I’m used to and they tell me they are sorry

if I was jealous that other people got better introductions than me

they say listen, I’m working really hard to deconstruct

the patriarchy within myself

I go for a walk

I start to remember things

I tell a friend I don’t like where my mind is going

how another poet was introduced by saying

they would be great to be in a threesome with

how another poet was introduced by saying

let us welcome so-and-so and her body

as if her body were a separate entity

that trailed after her personhood

minor and major trespasses

at the exact moment of handing over

the stage the microphone

here you go, have at it

a few days later my dad tells me over lunch

about what will happen to his property and his money

when he dies. I don’t feel comfortable talking

about money so I just nod and then I go back

to work hoping not to later be accused of being

ungrateful. I open up a new email to my sister

to tell her about what my dad said

I want to communicate with her about

concrete things, real divisions

of money and goods

but instead of it coming out

in sentences or paragraphs

there’s a kind of

a poem written in the email

with line breaks

and I say things like, what are the possibilities

of all the things

someone might do with a house

we don’t have to think of a house the way

they tell us to think of a house

and later she says

I wanted to respond to you

but it was hard because

you wrote a poem

instead of being direct

Issue 20