Toby Altman

Toby Altman is the author of Arcadia, Indiana (Plays Inverse, 2017) as well as five chapbooks, including recently Security Theater (Present Tense Pamphlets, 2016). His poems can be found in Crazyhorse, Jubilat, Lana Turner, and other journals and anthologies. He is currently completing a PhD in English at Northwestern University. In the Fall of 2017, he will begin an MFA in poetry at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

from Security Theater (confessions)

Scene: I keep no record of what I wrote. The poem is squandered language. I remember
only the fact of confession: that I stood at my desk and wrote unbearable things. Things
beyond which I bend into confusion. I fold the paper and put it in the box. Now I intend to
perish there.

Scene: in the park, I gather spent coals and stuff them into a plastic bag. I do it quickly,
even furtively. This is a performance that no one can see. I perform alone, in the solitude
of a rented space. I stand in the kitchen and bury my poem in trash. I cut dry flowers from
a bouquet I bought my wife last summer. They are still purple and crisp. I would like
them to decay. I would like to poison the poem with charcoal briquettes and vegetative
waste. I would like the poem to happen without me.

Scene: after I’ve buried the poem in coal and flower and coal, I carry it out on the porch and
leave it there. Finally, the poem can begin. The poem lives in the manner of a corpse. That is,
its substance is decay: the casual damage inflicted by being in the space. The poem teaches
me how to be diminishment, the site of ongoing loss. I experience this as a kind of theater.
The stage continuously recedes. All winter, it is busy unbecoming. In the spring, I’ll excavate
it from its cradle in the trash. I guess we’ll see what lasts.

by | May 23, 2017 | Author, The Lab, Toby Altman, Writing Room