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 an 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 cot 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 it 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.”


LAUREN L. WHEELER is a writer of poetry and short fiction. A recovering slam poet, she has featured at Cornell University, where she studied English Literature, as well as in Los Angeles, Miami, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in publications such as Lodestar Quarterly, Other Magazine, and PANK. She works in video game development in Austin, Texas with a dog named Java the Mutt.

2 responses to “Sideshow”

  1. Hank Cherry says:

    Recovering slam poet!

    Huzzah! Kick out the poetry m’er f’er! You do good.

  2. Brett Ortler says:

    Good stuff. Damn good. If you don’t mind, consider sending some work to Knockout, which I run. You can catch us here: http://www.knockoutlit.org.

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