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Emily Barton Altman

A Performance

This is a performance
where I build you
a shrine. You’re not dead
but in my dreams
you are. Because it is
possible, I know
I will see you again.
Tell me what
you think about it—I turn
my recorder on.

This is a performance
where I leave
my recorder on. I listen
to you sleep restlessly.
I thought when we started
there wouldn’t be an end
but now I see it—the edge
to everything. My past
at full bleed. Here is
the photograph of us—let it spill
through the frame.

This is a performance
where I hate the city
in the summer
in the winter
in the spring.
October comes and goes.
I watch the woman’s
silhouette on the roof each night
I wonder if she thinks
about the fall. In the harsh
light she turns back
into a tower. I listen
to the seagulls cawing
their empty stomachs
to a clear sky. I wish
for rain.

This is a performance
in which I erase my past,
my sorrows, my sex.
I grow my hair long and throw out
my clothes, my shoes. I deliberate
about what to keep of you—your face,
your voice? I take my body down
to the river at dawn
to bathe my hands and feet. I’ll write
to you: first, an apology,
then, an exorcism,
then, a torch song.

Emily Barton Altman
is a poet and editor. Recent publications include a chapbook, Bathymetry (Present Tense Pamphlets, 2016), and poems in TL;DR, Parallaxwicked alice, and others. She is a recipient of a Poets & Writers Amy Award and received her MFA from New York University. She co-hosts and produces the poetry podcast Make (No) Bones with her partner, Toby Altman.