Katie Willingham: Two Poems for Bad Survivalist

Bad Survivalist: Katie Willingham

What we eat in my dreams

is always the forbidden: bread and more bread, a failure

of imagination. We are not calling it the long emergency,

but we are not not calling it that. Is this like the first silence


that fell between Adam and Eve?: what needed

to be named, what shook

with meaning but held still between them—


knife wrapped in a towel, ghost in the soapdish

waiting to lick the salt from our palms. God,


how amazing and useless to shower in summer,

the word no one comes up with for when you stay

long after you’re clean.


I gargle with salt, worry a chewed inner cheek with my tongue.

How did I get here, having done all I’ve done to myself?


“It’s all happening,” I whisper            to the succulent           as I water it,

knowing this is always true,               that I could say it

and mean it                 whenever, but right now         I am thinking

about indoor plants                 and where they imagine

the water comes from.            Do they know             about domesticity?

Do they know             I have a will different

from the sky?              That I              can be blamed for things.

I feel it now,                what happens next. This          is when I tell you

that a third of Americans        may not be able to afford

clean water                  in 2020,                       a year that is taking shape

all the time, and starting         to get claws.      This is also

a Monday,                   a new story breaking               out into the work week:

a letter                         signed by 15,000 scientists     about hurtling

toward destruction like           they haven’t noticed               we already know

and we have stopped               in the road,                  in our deer suits.

No one much talks      of agency                     in suspension—when

you are trying              not to happen to anything, how          much effort

it takes             to remain.

Katie Willingham is the author of Unlikely Designs (University of Chicago Press). Her poems can also be found in Iowa Review, Diagram, Poem-A-Day, Kenyon Review, Grist, and others. She is the poetry editor for Michigan Quarterly Review. You can spot her in person most of the time in the wilds of Brooklyn, New York, and online always in her virtual home at katiewillingham.com.

Image: GeoffS, morguefile.com

Check out HFR’s book catalog, publicity list, submission manager, and buy merch from our Spring store. Follow us on Instagram and YouTube. Disclosure: HFR is an affiliate of Bookshop.org and we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Sales from Bookshop.org help support independent bookstores and small presses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments (