There is no way to talk about it without sounding like witches. Their toys are still found in the forest. Sometimes, you come upon a stuffed animal sitting under a tree, moss growing nearby but the plush pet unmolested by this green fur. The animal will look so fresh, seemingly set down only a moment before, untouched by the weather, the long time they have been there in the woods. You might believe the child’s hand had just let go, it looks that warm. If things can look warm. You might believe that the child hides behind the trunk of the tree against which the furry pink elephant rests his back. For perhaps obvious reasons of mojo, of superstition, with an eye to good cess, the country folk talk about the children in a thinly-veiled code. For example, they drop off the first letters of their names. Bess becomes “Ess” and Tara becomes “Ara.” Sometimes, they merely use the children’s initials. Everyone remembers how the daughter buried the cat in the box. How the younger boy discovered this, returned with the cat in the box, put it on the dining room table in the house, an offering to his parents. She wept, was confessed. The cat became a religious symbol in their household. Feline martyr. The white cat glowed. Her siblings drew and painted it. Had it been the medieval period, there would have been a stained glass window in which the cat figured prominently, heroically. She forgave the little brother who condemned her. Who outed the witch in her. And then she took him for a walk deep into the woods one day and he was never seen or held again. She wept. She “lost” him. He was never found. She was very clever. She could roll her spirit shut the way a pill bug rolls its body shut, the way it becomes a little armored pill. The young father (so young he looked more like her brother) saw when she went for the next boy; it was a close call with a snowstorm, a wicked game. A grandfather’s boat was involved. And then the father took her for a walk deep in the woods and “lost” her. He said it wasn’t as easy as all that. He came back with strange marks on him. Later, he woke up with a tattoo on his body that he had never seen applied. Then the rest of the family disappeared and their house remains empty to this day. The forest remains empty. The trees are still hung, here and there, with little photographs in frames. That is her work. There is always a cool breeze, even in the warmer months. Even in the swamping heat of July. The forest keeps this cool space and its blue shadows. People blame it on a cave, but there is no cave exhaling this cool air. Children who come through know not to touch the little icons of the photographs. Not to touch the trees even. But you can see her entire family in the photographs. And other long-dead people who are mysteries. Which ones are hers? Who knows. The animals sit under the trees. Old stuffed animals with strange eyes of sorts you don’t see anymore on the animal dolls we give our children. Icon eyes. Terror and amusement at once in those old plastic eyes. Strange ecstasy. Maybe it’s the way the eyes are when one sees a human circus. One knows the horror. A dark part of one might be titillated. She is close. She is listening to us. It cannot be otherwise, for that is what the story tells us. The trees feel compassionate and invite us in. There may be a child’s tea party, the tea laid and waiting for us. Plastic tea set aping porcelain. Teacups steaming. Miniature table. Tiny chairs where tiny witches sit. But they are not what we imagine. We know better. One child walking barefoot encountered a lobster in the middle of the woods. It was crawling along the forest floor, though the ocean is more than an hour’s drive away . Sometimes a cloud will descend on a clear blue day and fill the space between the trees. And some days there are elephants. They seem lost. They cry as they wander through the fog and a girl’s laugh curdles your listening. Some unwise children leave her notes. These she reads. And sometimes she responds. Sometimes she comes to “help.”
All of this is for the other, the glorification of the other.
That the other might light up,
refuses, light up.
Your DNA is cold and alone.
The only thing which can occur is the magnification
of acts. It is a tree and we decorate it
with lights in a dark season.
Your DNA has plans for you.
“These words are not clusters
but plasmas,” I promised.
The blond couple walks alongside the river, along
coldness, on top of planks they walk
as in a woodcut, hand in glove,
they are pointing,
expanding, a contract
that lovers strike up, fingers aimed
to well-tuned whispers
out over a bay’s slant dark heft of blue
Someone’s DNA attempts to blur it.
They click and mutter as animatronics
of a Japanese haunted house. A sky looks this way
over an ocean, it is flame-retardant,
two-dimensional. As we have Munch’s
tepid Annunciations, we smile
sourly into them:
headaches of desire, vampires, clocks,
orbs on the horizon, naked old men
turning back to woods. These things
happen for a reason. Your DNA
is caustic, trapped. There is a sheep
wandering the distance,
grazing a cold green line towards a mountain,
but it is no lamb.
A grocery cart
is a constructive use
of metal holes
made small enough
to hold things in.
Our minds are probably
It’s just the holes
are much smaller,
and so is the merchandise.
Sometimes, it’s people
who push the carts,
and sometimes it’s nobody:
the wind. A ghostly cart
just rolls across a parking lot
all by itself, like this poem
on its little haunted wheels
I want to mischievously send you a photo of you as you were
long ago. When I knew you. When I so much more
than knew you. It will come out of the personal blue,
from a bogeyman’s slingshot, a shot in the dark, an idiom
which admits the dark has agency, weird intent,
as I had for you, and you intense for me. Once.
Once isn’t the right word for something that happened
so many times, but it will haunt and have to do,
and it strikes just the right note of an asshole ghost.