by Lauren Wheeler
For a nickel, you can take a picture of me
standing just so in front of a wooden board
with a heart painted on it.
For a dime, you can take a picture with me,
you squatting behind and peeking through
like I'm one of those cardboard cutouts
of an "Indian Chief" or a unicorn or some other
supposedly mythical creature.
When you offer a quarter, we move to the tent,
dim-lit and dusty, where I sit on the low
quilt-covered pot and pat the space beside me.
You are nervous. "Will it hurt you?"
I shake my head. "It never hurts. Not anymore."
Then I take your hand and guide up towards
the hole in my chest. You tremble for a second
as you reach through me, wiggle your fingers
around behind my back, disbelieving.
"Where is your heart?" you ask.
"How do you live without your heart?"
I take your hand again, kiss it.
"It's amazing the things you can learn
to live without."