Katie Willingham

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SELF-PORTRAIT AS THE NYLON GRASS WALL

I.
Sometimes I have more fingers than I know
what to do with. It’s funny, they say artificial

limbs get better all the time, but I can’t help
thinking there are worse things in life than

a phantom limb, a little ghost in the sink
bowl, a reflection you don’t recognize.

It’s a lesson in modernity—that inside your
face there’s another face with it’s own

set of teeth in two straight rows.

II.
I like to eavesdrop but I don’t think it should count
when people sit so close I can feel their
breath. It tastes like coffee and popcorn.
I like to fill myself into their stories, like

“I had a dream about you last night, [Wall,]”
or “I wish we spent more time together, [Wall,]”
and “[Wall,] I wish you didn’t smoke so much,” and
“It’s chilly in here, [Wall]; feel my hand.”

III.
It’s emergency protocol that I have to hold up
the fire alarm at all times. People stare
because it’s red and shiny and says “FIRE”
but I pretend not to notice. I understand why
they like to be reminded that it’s safe here
and there’s an escape route, so when
it all goes to Hell at least I’ll be here to
activate the sprinkler system.

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