“Do Not” by Barbara Lawhorn

Don’t fall in love ever again.
Maybe, don’t trust yourself.
Maybe only believe in what is
tangible. Don’t use similes
and metaphors so much in speech. Don’t

let others know what you are thinking. Feeling.
Doing next. Don’t plan ahead. Don’t plan meals.
Don’t think. Don’t think the wind rustling the dead
leaves, still hanging on, is God. Don’t

expect. Anything. Don’t expect anyone.
Anyone to make room for you in the homes
of their lives. Or you for them. Get small. Get quiet.
Work on disappearing into yourself. Think.
Think bomb shelter, canned goods, flashlights, and sleeping
bags. Zip yourself up. Listen. Listen. To the water rising
in you; all that blood. Be a dead leaf casting away, first on air
then on water. Use as few words as possible. As necessary.
You aren’t a tree. Words aren’t branches. Words are icicles.
Only hang them coldly, where they are really needed. Don’t

press your body to anything or anyone. Let your body only
be lodging wherever and whenever you are in the world. Don’t
talk. Don’t send a telegram to the world; send one to yourself.
Don’t smile unnecessarily. Set your face. Your skin isn’t Silly
Putty. Much of the world is unfunny. Don’t

laugh. What foolishness
you swam in. How dare you? You wore optimism like a bikini
that didn’t fit you. Take it off. No one will look at you,
much less touch you, in your nakedness.

Barbara Lawhorn is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. She’s into literacy activism, walking her dog, Banjo, running, baking and eating bread, and finding the wild places, within and outside. Her most recent work can be found at The Longleaf Pine, BLYNKT, Nebo: A Literary Magazine, and Naugatuck River Review. Her favorite creative endeavors are her kids, Annaleigh and Jack.

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