Fifteen Billboards

by Shyla Shehan


In my rearview, billboards blur into dust
I pull matches from my skirt pocket.
Pizza Hut. I wanted something else—
a wild origami, a rare Pokemon.
A message from beyond—an arrow.
My mother doesn’t lie—she tells the best stories
and named her anxiety Desire.

The gum on the bottom
of my bright red converse
reminds me of your recent promotion
and pronouncement.
Our sacrifices will be worth it.

I declare outloud to noone, If the raven flies
at 3:36 PM, I’ll stop
. This seizure
of bedazzled ideas, rhinestones
and plastic pearls make my head spin.
Just let it all go. Please.

I invent a great idea melter
that melts fast so you don’t have to shovel
your way out.
Maybe I’ll drive south
to a town where the Home Depot
doesn’t stock shovels for snow.
Or to a town with no Home Depot
or Ace or Lowes or
Pizza Hut.
Why did she name me Red Riding Hood?

The next billboard urges me to turn left.
Turn left and you will be…
      wherever you are.
I watch as it disappears.


Shyla Shehan is an analytical Virgo who holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Nebraska where she received an American Academy of Poets Prize in 2020. She is a co-founder and editor at The Good Life Review and currently lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband, children, and four cats. Her full bio and published work are available at shylashehan.com.


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The original draft of this poem came from a collaborative exercise in a poetry studio class. The initial lines were therefore distinctly those of the poets involved and somewhat disparate. However, despite this, the poem seemed to hold a unified meaning for me and the different voices lent themselves to the common experience we all have with voices in our heads and meandering thoughts. I felt compelled by the poem and had a strong urge to hone in on this notion while putting more focus on a singular speaker as she drives past billboards and they “blur into dust” behind her.


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