Brian Baumgart

SELF-PORTRAIT AT THE END OF THE WORLD


I drink bleach from printer paper, cook dinner
for six when it’s only my own open mouth
blocked with stone fists. Teeth swim
in grit, the ashes of a burning pine lightening
my beard to a softer grey. Growing older

blesses us
with dirty microwaves
and the ability to not
care, even a bit

if ancient crusts rain leftover dust
onto Salisbury steak.

A student once told me the best tool to kill
zombies is paper. Just

she said

tear out the next page
and you’re free. She’s young
enough to brush the ashes away, leave
the printer well-fed, cook only
for herself with, perhaps, just a little left
for later, just in case she’s not ready
to remove the undead.

And I’ll pretend that’s the case, that it’s not time
to relegate someone like me—but, of course, not me—
to a single page torn from their own story.

I practice lighting matches with my thumbnail,
practice blowing away the flame. I douse the ember.
Repeat. Pretend I’m ready. Pretend the fire arrives.

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