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Dummy Ventriloquist

~ after “Not I: Throwing Voices” exhibit, LACMA, 2021

Or a misalignment of voice and body.
Some folks get paid
not to let you in. While my lips
won’t move having mastered the virus
speaking through hidden
identities. The artist
with various hats on inside a bubbly
tower reduced to marbles in the
mouth. It’s a dimensional bridge
and I am crossing it.
Super woody sneeze
with lip zipped!
I smell leather and cowboy boots.
Red trim transmitting ire inside
a deep-seeded ear. My crying bust
of a child. You can fear it.
You can dead hare and a falcon in the niche.
I’ve got my fingers carved into pinewood
with gems around the neck—my
mannequin pedestal.
Ur, Mutter,
I am not your doll.
More like neighborhood devil
or court jester. Friendly box
with the sound of its own making.
Relax, we don’t want
what you have, Pygmalion. If you cross
that line, you won’t be heard.
The museum guard has fallen asleep.
When I listen to my voice
lately, it feels like
it belongs to the not me anymore.


Michelle Bitting is the author of five poetry collections, "Good Friday Kiss," winner of the inaugural De Novo First Book Award; "Notes to the Beloved," which won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award; "The Couple Who Fell to Earth"; "Broken Kingdom," winner of the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize and a recipient of a Starred Kirkus Review; and "Nightmares & Miracles" (Two Sylvias Press, 2022), winner of the Wilder Prize and recently named one of Kirkus Reviews 2022 Best of Indie. Her chapbook "Dummy Ventriloquist" is forthcoming in 2024.

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