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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 2

"Let Not the Forest In"

written by

Avra Margariti

If you must walk through the forest,

Be fleet and vigilant.

Do not make any stops for rest

Or sudden movements revealing

Of unease.

If you hear rustling in the underbrush

Be it animal or anamorphic plant,

Avoid all eye contact.

Pin your gaze to your scuffed shoes

Over the bracken,

Scurry like a small mammal

With shifty eyes

And a truncated tail.

Keep to the path, and keep

The shape of your destination

In your memory despite the hypnotic

Wind-song fluting

Through lush leaves.

Peek not into oaken hollows,

For acorns and fungi are not the sole

Occupants you’ll meet there.

If tree boughs stretch akin to limbs,

Do not let them pet you,

Even if you feel starved

For a kind touch, or any touch at all;

Even if sunlight is mere memory

In the shadow-dappled,

Murk-mantled woods.

If you grow hungry, if the crust

Of dry bread in your pocket

Invites no appetite,

Do not bow down to inhale

Meaty flowers, do not pick bruise-purple

Berries from their leafy nests.

Whatever you do,

Let no morsel in your mouth

Nor sip of water past your lips, no matter how

Pure or crystalline.

And for your sake, never use breadcrumbs

As your guide.

The trees and shrubs might all appear

Identical to you, marked by the same

Ancient rings and scarred bark

At every bend and thicket,

But remember that a trail of breadcrumbs

Will always lead back to you.

There’s no telling what hungry thing

Will follow.

Your destination,

Do you still remember,

Can you recall it at will?

Or is it gently slipping through streams

And into subterranean warrens,

Snuggled by sleeping beasts;

Absorbed by agaric colonies;

Caught in songbird beaks, a crumb

Of humanity like a bad dream

Swiftly forgotten?

Avra Margariti is a queer author, Greek sea monster, and Pushcart-nominated poet with a fondness for the dark and the darling. Avra’s work haunts publications such as Vastarien, Asimov’s, Liminality, Arsenika, The Future Fire, Space and Time, Eye to the Telescope, and Glittership. “The Saint of Witches”, Avra’s debut collection of horror poetry is forthcoming from Weasel Press. You can find Avra on twitter (@avramargariti).

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