The Forest’s Secrets

The houses stop at the end of the block.
I step down from the concrete slab
Follow the narrow path hemmed in by tall grass that
Brushes my trousers wet as I walk easily past

A dark forest stands astride my way
There’s no going round – need I be afraid?
Déjà vu flickers —
An ancestor shard of traitor Loki’s kind?and slips from my grasp

Wind quietly whispers through the branches and
A hushing murmurous song sounds from the myriad leaves
I stop to listen…
I can’t quite catch the sighing tune
The tree trunks stuck deep into the rich brown earth
Ivy tendrils creep over their round muscly roots

I must go through – that is my way
I sense a gladness in the woods
A siren calls to me: come caper play
A few quick steps into the shadows
Brings me to the wooden gateway

I shoulder a way past the coarse bark sentinels
Their eye-knots stare blankly at my back
Leaves and limbs crowd in
The gloaming light fades to murk
I dodge further along the grey trail
Which wends and curves through the dinge
Feeds me into a green-filled vale

Grey stones poke up like teeth: little graves
Studded all round the mossy bowl
Wreaths of coal-black lilacs slip me a silvery grin
Nodding purple irises open and close

Black plumes pour themselves into the glade
I look in every direction turning
My compass needle spins crazily, settles neither this way or that
I hear close by:
Foxes treading softly over dead leaves
The wolves that snicker, and
The damned black rooks that mutter
Further away:
Mythic beasts burble and bellow
Their echoless babel-calls
(they belong to the other)
Fall down lost
In the soil of the wooden labyrinth

I’m stunned. Dare not move
Or take one step; held in place by the boggy ground
(I close my eyelids but still I can see.
I try to push out the spell-struck glister of
the giddy shadowland)
My pale arm and hand feels my taut chest wall with
Its ongoing heart-thud inside

My eyes flick open, searching
There must a clue, some simple sign
Glowing phantom tracks or gingerbread crumbs

I pull and hitch a ride on
Ariadne’s wool, a glimmer of thread left to lead me out
Away from the half-human bulls
The black smokey Furies: the trio
Hound me with their god-proclaimed rules,
Make me stumble onto all fours
My hands clutch at moss dirt twigs
But I feel in my soul the godless timour
Of my fear: the barks and groans
My panic at the shrieks and groans
The woollen thread breaks apart in my hands

The Woods pull at my hair,
Slips inside my clothes
A frigid plucking at my skin, my ribs now bare
To its fossicking fiddling which jabs in and grabs my heart
Turns it over, a cursory interrogation of the rusty depths of my life
I shudder, hold my breath,
(I cannot abide that faraway cackling)
While my still pumping heart’s held
Casually in the raven’s bloody claw.
The chasm in my chest
Waits empty and lifeless,
My skin shrinking tightly over
Exposed bones, so ivory-white, so scarified and worn
The Raven King catches my eye, lifts my red heart
Then plunges it back into my whole
Smirks its toothless grin and points a blood-red talon
That way.

I pat down my thin beggar’s clothes and
Force my stiffened legs to move
I walk, then run pellmell
From the leering Raven and
Its daemon-linked world,

Closed in by the gloom
I race past the night-frighteners
Trace the snick snapping near my ears,
Of splintered bones and obsidian spears, of
A thousand year gone soldiers’ remains
Those who squashed metal helms,
Shattered unbreakable shields and
Scythed down all who stood to gain:
A scattered chessboard of murder
Stretches across a roan-red plain
I touch the filmy smoke of the martial deeds
Their savage spirits buried deep under ground

I flee heedless of the branches clutching and
Scritching against my thin skin
Press on through the drowning wave of ancestor memories
(please don’t go… haha hahe)
Behind me chortling laughter curls
Then suddenly the plucking fingers
Let me go.
The forest pushes me out

Into daylight, the grass,
I clutch handfuls of the precious green
Lie breathing face down
Smell our sun and the open air
Freed from the black-hearted conjuring
Of the Woods

I swear to my quivering body –
My lips touch the spiky arrows of grass whisper:
Never again tread that loathsome path
That shortcut’s not worth taking:
My horror at the labyrinthine fright-fest
Snagged and torn in that dark-star cosmos
Of the Forest’s domain
Still strains my heart