Steven D. Schroeder

Schoolchildren explore the forbidden forest

Hours that might be years. Air that might be thicket. The only back is forward. The only through is thornbush. Northward blurs and wavers. The trail or not-trail argues: here, no, there, no, where? Behind them, forest. Ahead, more forest. Darkness hurries in like curtains on the afternoon. Safe in the village, parents build a bonfire, twig effigies, barricades of sharpened logs to guard both out and in. On the gateposts: carved initials, birthdays, tally marks. Clearcut and scorch are not enough. The children find themselves farther than they are. To return home means to earth. In their eyes, forest. In their hearts, more forest. In their cries, the most. From their arms burst warning flowers. From their mouths creep the sweetest poison berries. By tomorrow morning, saplings will surround the town. They grow up so fast and hard.

Please write below this line

This space intentionally left blank
in case of your personal emergency
for internal or external use only
as a flotation device that fits at least
two-and-a-half intriguing facts,
an origin myth with teeth, plus
a lightning strike. Break the glass.
Enter the pen. Feed your animals
after dusk and see what happens.
These timber wolves live in the house
you lived in long ago. They love you
as much as your mother does.
Follow the trail that follows water
down from stonecut heights,
past this pinpoint, beyond sense,
into again. Search for a word for
what there is no word for, and then—

STEVEN D. SCHROEDER is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Wikipedia Apocalyptica. His second book, The Royal Nonesuch, won the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award from Southern Illinois University. His poems have appeared in The Cincinnati ReviewCopper Nickel, and Sixth Finch, among others. He edits the online poetry journal $ (

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