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  • Rough Draft TX Team

The Personhood Project Episode 15: Joshua Burton

This month, poet Joshua Burton joins our host Aaron Tyler Hand to discuss his debut collection of poetry, Grace Engine, as well as his chapbook Fracture Anthology. In conversation, they bring up Terrance Hayes, the usefulness of exploring Juxtaposition, and the grace found within the tension. The two also discuss writing about family in an honest yet ethical way. Most importantly, they discuss how writing about family or even writing in general allows one to get closer to finding their own truth.

Joshua Burton:

Poems for me are a kind of processing machine... they're a way to peel back layers and slowly process trauma.


Closed My Cell In to Free My Thoughts

I wake up to concrete

walls and locked metal doors

on the outside of this

case lies my mistakes

waiting to gnaw at

my conscious

I leave for visits or recreation

but quickly return

to the solitude

because the thoughts of

freedom and drugs is

just too much for me

Being caged up is my new high

Here I can’t change anything but the TV

Leaving the thought of

relapsing as an impossible

I love the impossible

I yearn for sober

productive life beyond my

safe haven cage

I take a pick ax to my thoughts

Trying to find the hidden

key to the set of handcuffs

this life has on me

Then one day while playing chess

I wake up from my

zombified state

In this moment in this

cage I finally feel free

I take the key of happiness

and unlock the handcuffs

that have shackled me

for so many years.

And for so many years

I thought those handcuffs were drugs

Only this day did I

realize they were

just thoughts

Thoughts of sadness

needing numbing

Thoughts of society

needing quieting

Thoughts of anger

wanting to explode

All handcuffing me

to any drug that

would turn my

mind thoughtless

Deep Thought

I think blood is watered down, in this limited world alone with no one around. When I was lost only friends stepped up to the mound. How can we be the same? You never been in correctional facilities where the insane visualize defeat. How we the same? You might be mesmerized, know I handle adversity. My insecurities is what compels me to repeat certain actions that fall into negative patterns. But I never think I’m better than. So don’t o-m-i-t. I’m not gon let that go over your head, that means fail, forget, neglect, other individuals. Might be the same but I’m not like the rest.

Trust the Process!! This is a challenging task. Possibly

through hard times your gifts shows

the most. Motivated by limited

space seems to inspire you. Nobody

cares about your emotional state.

Exploit your ego and expand your priority.

Never be a follower. Ask yourself what

opportunities are available. Start editing

your friends. Surely this will pay off in

the end. Encourage yourself to go that extra

mile. As challenging as this must seem, trust

the process.

Who Are You?

Convicted felon, liar, cheater, and a drug addict.

Most of my life I’ve been a coward.

The choices in life haven’t always been the greatest

I was a very insecure young boy and man

It took a lot of soul searching, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears

For me to be able to see myself for who and what I truly am

A King

From a Warrior to a King

Are you willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for your Queen?

I’m asking, are you willing to not only sacrifice your body

but have a clear, honorable mind, body, spiritual connection

and intention with the woman you choose to call your Queen.

Of course, you will fight for her right? But will you be her

emotional stability and her back?

Warrior– are you ready to stand guard and sacrifice your

life for this woman, your Queen? Will you fight for her honor

everyday of your life? Are you willing to be at her service

and her side as a Warrior should?

Will you swear never to lie, cheat, or dishonor her and

mean it with your life? If you are not willing to

stand up– stand down / step down so

another Warrior can have her and do what is right.

The New The True

Schizophrenic language God Rapture and Spaceships

Overalls in black is Christ, a child’s hidden glow

A profit kids a dog a cat a turtle my wife’s gold

How do I include myself my love is ancient old

An honest poem saying some things expressed as strange feelings

Unafraid to be afraid receiving life’s beatings

They didn’t knock unjust inside my killer kid bedroom

A bearded plan the witch is blind non flying on her broom

For if you’re close and didn’t know what it was before

I hate that I’m the chosen one who knows the fuckin score

Apologies if you’re confused frustrated used or bored

But you belong to me you see and truly are adored

I hear good luck its me its you go home open the door

I am the key that must be used enriching all the poor

You fell to rise bring their demise the fires in your eyes

Darkness abyss break down the rich they are pathetic flies

Time travel camp slingshot the light the king is in disguise

Stay close to me my perfect bride the fallen must arise

The light and dark can co-exist accept receive the prize

Embrace new life make love all night my heart is deep inside

Read comic books and jam good shit yo kid it’s a surprise

New earth future will be so great you’ll think that it’s a lie

But wait the God who is true and just shall provide for life

It’s time my son true love has won receive and bless your life.

O.K. Ok so like the dude made a boat

and made room for all types

Had a wife and love Ham

and was used as a plan

to recycle a past

so a culture could last

along with rest

buy new words by the best

Dust clay filth and a home

Going back to the first

without hearing beyond every word of the song

In the prime of your life

for 10 bucks and a wife

and a marvelous gift

to make best of the strife

one may rain down a flood

or take advantage of blood

But you’d rather make

an awesome snowman of mud

or maybe go for a swim

then take a shower in sin

preferring that you lose

so the rest can now win

Ok so like I’m the dude who’s got the boat

Now get in or you’ll sink

Writing Prompts:

  1. At its core, the poem Grace Division is a confessional poem where the speaker in Burton’s poem recounts a time that they ended up in a mental hospital and all of the steps and missteps in life that led them to that point. The turning point in this poem is the line “But those mistakes are not gods”. Here the speaker realized that the past mistakes are not what defines him, thus allowing him to move on from them. Think of some past mistakes or missteps that might have led to where you are today, write a poem that acknowledges them so that they don’t become what defines you.

  2. In Elegy for Threats with Grace, Joshua Burton opens up about his feelings towards himself as well as his closest family and friends. The poem is used as a way to express feelings towards people that he was once afraid to share, but here he doesn’t hold back. Write an honest poem where you share something with the people closest to you that you might not have shared with them before. Say the things you’ve always wanted to say, express the feelings you’ve always wanted to express. Don’t be afraid to include yourself in there as well. What are you afraid to share even with yourself?

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