Collage artwork made by Natalie McDonagh in 2022 of girl holding a baby pangolin

Natalie McDonagh. Miss Laid (Or Advertising A Bag Of Flour), 2022. Paper collage, found images 30x23cm. From the series Near Misses: Portraits in praise of undomesticated mind 2021-2022.

Do / Do Not

I sniff the blooming tiger lily,

two tongues sprung open

from one mouth.

I poison the river unintentionally.

I walk on the designated paths.

I splice the mountain, its body and mouth gaping.

I collect rainwater in a wheelbarrow.

I line the whale’s belly with gifts until

they rupture its stomach.

I water the strawberries.

Again I fill my gas tank with dead things,

generations spun together until shiny.

I feed the ducks fresh lettuce.

I manoeuvre the dead squirrel

on the road, mark the moment

when creature becomes meat.

I accept that my love is a

poisonous flower, routinely fatal.

I calculate the force of

loving in each glittering death.

All day on this land, in the

deep forest, the electric greens and

still-wet mud writhe with life.

The pond gurgles and whispers.

Everyone here knows to shudder

when they see me coming.

The mangos arrive unbruised

at the grocery store.

The wolves should start running.

Nisha Atalie, 2022. Do / Do Not. Originally published in Poem-a-Day by the Academy of American Poets