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  • Emily Barton Altman

Five poems // Emily Barton Altman

Of The Body

The common quandary

on display, that easy


discarded in tombs of sentinel

ancestors, beckoning

to the other

side of the wildlife

tour, a tangled

relationship to urban



to contagious

gods, slick

in their nuance.

I am bitten

off at the throat

I eat your autumn

weather and say it is


here is a sentence the body speaks:


You are not in California

I have been out

of touch and you

an ache, I examine

all the places

I could have turned

and stitched you up,

my body in the jar

it created, how

I invents

itself next to you.


How often I forget everything

she does is done

in grief: the grocery list,

the laundry, her drive

to work—

how we coax

our bodies

into existence,


I want to know

extremes of my own

body, this

includes frailty,

includes vulnerability.

Is it enough

to say I offer

different kinds of waste,

present and absent,

to say I bury my doubts

opened and remade

in this instance.

The Fall

Nothing is

yet: impossible! Remove the removal,

how to: in flux, in fall,

where we dwelled. A pier

under sheets of ice, a boardwalk,


buried in parts. The shore

frozen over,

let it be still, perhaps,

let it be a lake.


what is found if roads are taken

along ridges / all

the ways to the end

to sleep / to dream

impossible! Perhaps / perchance

in winter / a shadow

to borrow.


The day after you left, I buried

you, and set off to scatter


full of air

and riverbed.

Here now, another you

come to take

your place, a subtle

shift, imperceptible.

In the evenings

two yous

align their threads

and take turns


I intercede, still

rich and sweaty, covered

in dust.

It has been

a long climb, and the river

is swelling, even now.

What to make of this swelling,

I doesn’t know.


Emily Barton Altman is a poet and editor living in Chicago. Recent publications include a chapbook, Bathymetry (Present Tense Pamphlets, 2016), and poems in Parallax, wicked alice, and Foothill. 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.

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