"Let Not the Forest In"
If you must walk through the forest,
Be fleet and vigilant.
Do not make any stops for rest
Or sudden movements revealing
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
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,
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
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
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).