Michelle Penn


You tell yourself you’re immune, always, but then D appears, if not exactly out of the shadows then like a river of milk flooding the kitchen. You try laying down towels, try licking D up, fancying yourself a cat, the distant and independent creature gazing disdainfully at those who clamour for its attention. But the milk rolls from your tongue, continues rising, soaking through the papers on the floor, the books on the chair, drenching your clothing, swirling around your chest, teasing and pressing at your breath. You consider swimming, but D circles your wrists, softly clamps your ankles together. You’d fight but there’s something so soothing about all that milk, warm and sweet, the drug of it, teasing with all that is possible, the breath you retain until your head grows light and you’re high with distraction, you’re gulping the river down, not to drown in its spectacle but to pull it closer, the sugar of it, you’ll give up time and every practicality to keep swallowing until your ears ring like sirens.



MICHELLE PENN is a dual US/UK national and a long-time Londoner. Her debut pamphlet, Self-portrait as a diviner, failing, won the 2018 Paper Swans Prize and was published in the UK last September. Her work has appeared in Shearsman, Magma, Butcher’s Dog, Spillway, The Pedestal and other journals on both sides of the Atlantic. She recently completed a book-length poem that re-imagines The Tempest as a violent dystopia.


Read more by Michelle Penn:

Buy her chapbook from Paper Swans Press
Poem in Pedestal Magazine
Poem in Malika’s Poetry Kitchen