Reader beware: you will curse god
and banish his coincidence.
Wear your best clothes. You will clothe yourself,
you hear me, with the pockets turned outward,
Vitamins are good for you.
You will mix them with your popcorn, and eat them
in the movies, like popcorn.
You will let cat eat you. What will you do
when he himself leaves you in charge
and unhealed? You will lie down on the carpet
and let the cat eat you.
You will look at the ceiling,
the dumb hot ceiling and the struggle of the fan blades.
They will be whining like the second cat -
which will be locked outside the patio doors.
It will see itself threely ghosted in the glass.
And the first cat will go damp-whiskered
and ungrateful, it will wait
upon the red stairway with half its meal uneaten.
I said, don’t worry about it.
You will turn her a brown shirt
from the wood of seedlings you gather.
You’ll get a knife for your birthday.
They won’t tell you to slice away
from the body of you and into the body of the sky.
Your left hand will say that you will cut yourself a mischief,
your right that you will learn.
They will both know.
The wood will cut into her armpits,
so when you leave her
(and you will leave her)
she will shrug a while into the stiff breast pieces
and your ticket stubs
and nail clippings and your forgetting
what shirts are made of -
that sometimes they lie quiet under a coat.
Sometimes she will reach for the cotton sleeves
when belly-the-man on the train
opens his mouth and
wets the top of her newspaper with his questions
- and she will find only the wood
of the seedlings you gathered.
Of the dead, nothing unless good.
You will not give her the comfort of forgetting you.
You will apologise
and hope to be forgiven.
Don’t worry about it.
Vitamins are still good for you.
Lay them on your knuckles
and I will roll a six for them. Unless
you bring both dice to try me,
in which case I will roll a two and a four.
You will look inconsequentially.
You will touch at a distance -
linger, and be spared
This poem was shortlisted for the 2017 Outspoken Poetry Page Prize and Eleanor Penny was included in the list of 10 Poets Bound to Shift Poetry In The UK