Joshua Burton



My only daughter is sleeping
in worn sheets.

My shadow keeps her
like a shelter.

In this cave, she grows
like algae.

Later, near the clearing,
by the lake,
I hang

thin sheets, draped
across the empty

nearly translucent. Water
drips near.
At night, the moon sneaks in.

At dawn, fruit drops.
She palms it.

A few sycamore leaves slip
into the lake
I stare into.

I feel its breath,
stalagmites like
hands reaching

for that sickness
inside every human,

inside her.


JOSHUA BURTON is a Houston native who received his B.A. from the University of Houston and is currently an MFA candidate for poetry at Syracuse University. He is a 2019 Tin House Winter Workshop Scholar. His work seeks to navigate the way historical, generational, and familial trauma crosses wires with mental and physical illness.

Note: “My Shadow Keeps Her” is from a collection of poems about the life of the author’s mother; this poem in particular is in the voice of his mother.


Read more by Joshua Burton:

Poem in Figure 1