Retablo for noxious thoughts
even in dreams, the rusted metal shark cruises the river.
even in dreams: money gone, passport, keys lost. again.
do not talk to strangers. do not admit you’re home alone.
check your food for blades and evidence of syringes.
spies can hide messages in the dot of an i.
you are a wisp of lace. careful. do not catch yourself. you will unravel.
you are not careful in your skin.
you wear too many words on your mouth.
do not open yourself.
this will end. badly.
a mistake is a monument. you will wake forever in its shadow.
any decision will petrify, form part of your irrevocable forest.
all actions will drag behind you, the train of a tattered gown
weighty with dirt.
your thoughts are a dog that won’t come when called, just keeps running.
only trust the walls.
only sing the anthem of a country that no longer exists.
Michelle Penn’s pamphlet, Self-portrait as a diviner, failing, won the 2018 Paper Swans Prize. Her book-length poem, Paper Crusade, is forthcoming in 2022 (Arachne Press). Recent poetry has appeared in PN Review, Tentacular, The Amsterdam Quarterly, The Rialto and The Interpreter’s House. New work is forthcoming in Berfrois, The London Magazine, Bad Lilies and Stand. Michelle plans innovative poetry/art/music events in London as part of Corrupted Poetry. michellepennwriter.com Photos by José Ignacio Pompé and Paul Macallan (Unsplash).