Forest

Forest

The trees are knotted
in the spot where the bluebells grow
in June.

Gnarling, their roots twist
into strange, exotic shapes—
Spirals and triangles, spikes
like barbed wire.

We used to sit here
as children. We knew the notch,
the dark hard eye,
the tender part which you cut
to get the sap out.

Everything here is a cycle;
there is no flow of time,
no regress or
degeneration.

In summer the frost fades
to forget-me-nots;
through the canopy, long
into the evening, light lingers
in splinters and sparkles.

So I return;
the trees seem to whistle.
You hear their singing, its softness
like pining. Walk with me.

The greenness changes with the seasons.
Now I look upon it,
these tufts of grass, these oak leaves
glow with yellow fire—
chocolate, chestnut, cinnabar.

I look upon the colour, my fingers
scratching the eye. Its hardness
comes apart like ice.

I stare into that black spot,
the cavernous passage laden with frost,
the eye like a moon.

In the copper of twilight I see you again:
grass in your hair,
bluebells in June.

by Maria S.

(Prompts: green-man.jpg, passage, degeneration)

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This Skin

The sickness that I feel is very specific. It’s linked to the way I don’t want to wake up, though every fibre of life is tugging me away from this dream. There’s a certain way that I’ll remember the words you say to me, how they flourish and expand in the quickening air. For you cannot breathe in these spaces, not for too long. The dust and the dryness will flake the layers off of you, will leave you clean and unlovely as a littered shell. This place holds our pleasures, the memory of our perishing. You would do well to clear things, you would do well to forget them.

Is it your hands I see, pressed up against the glass? You would think that, having known you this long, I would have memorised exactly the motif of your fingerprints. The glossy whorls and swirls and the lifeline, fractured in the middle by uncanny premonitions. But I do not know your palms from a strangers; at least, I did not then. You are lost and longing to get in; you feel the warmth of this room where they have locked me up for eternity. It is a peculiar irony that in this attic, you are the ghost excluded, liquid and flimsy; and I impossibly solid, the mortal body within.

I close my eyes to the perilous sound of gushing water, the black streams around me, pulling and pulling; I feel my body tugged and twisted by the current, and the river bears me up as a mother births her child. Monstrous and unbecoming, evolving in its loss of power and being. The pain is the same; the breathless theft of consciousness. The hum and rush of everything happening. As I awake, I am on the stony ground, convulsing like a beached fish. You have pulled me out of the water and your arms are strong, white and goosefleshed, still quivering. I look up, dazed, into your eyes. I see the emerald green: the soul of a forgotten child. All time is quiet, the very leaves on the trees around us flutter in the breeze, mesmerised. I would let you kiss me, in the silver and chill of the river; I would let you kiss me, in this skin, dappled with hours of playful daylight.

I would let you kiss me. How strange to whisper it now.

(Prompts: attic window photo, longing, mesmerise)

by Maria Rose Sledmere