The forest is sacred.
I liked to stomp dance with no ribbon shirt
under the paper birches of my childhood.
I liked to watch the sun shapes change
as the wind blew the ensign leaves around.
The whole place was haunted, the good haunted.
I would lie face-up in cool grass, sunshine
glinting through the canopy of Indiana’s old growth—
Glinting through the canopy of Indiana’s old growth,
a young body praying.
Falltime sticks out like old
branded bricks that paved my way
from backdoor to back parts
of a county line forest punctuated with the ashes
of bonfires had. My round-toed Lebron’s
slap on flattened stacks of
orange leaves that my 3 yr old sister
and I had already rolled around in.
And I had already rolled around in
the scent of school-long hours, but not yet in green jumpers.
I got girly skinny, was skinned.
Eighth grade, yellow light buzzes,
yellow air hovers under
the greening ceiling tiles of the same middle
school that my grandad attended.
The whole place was haunted, the bad haunted.
Someone always watched as I lifted my plaid skirt to use the toilet
in my melted memory here.
In my melted memory here,
my first kiss was like this
horrible, unholy stained glass image
of the backside of peeling, beige school lockers.
The walls were a blank pyramid, pail turquoise cinderblock
stacked behind my goose-egged head.
The cutest boy in my class of eight kids
shoved me against that wall, behind those lockers,
from the back of the line.
Clapped a clammy hand over my mouth,
parted his middle and ring finger enough to smudge his
Said he wished he could keep me tied to a tree,
come back to the woods whenever he pleased.
Come back to the woods whenever he pleased
as I aged in-between. I moved out of uniform
and into low-rise jeans and shirts untucked. The high school
lockers were red and painted fresh. In a school
of 2,000 students, there was nowhere to be thrown
into corners, no where but in plain sight to be.
The first party I went to was in the backyard
of a boy who lived in those county line woods I was talking about.
A huge blue swimming pool seemed to fill the first acre
of his yard. There were Christmas lights strung everywhere
and tents set up like sweat lodges for drunk teenagers.
No one tied me to a tree, but there was a pickup truck.
No one tied me to a tree, but there was a pickup truck
parked by an old pole barn, hollow and unwhole.
An indigo place growing black
like all haunted space.
I thank God he was Christian and his mom probably
told him sex was a sin that he wouldn’t be forgiven.
I swear to God if I ever have a son.
I swear to God if I ever have a son
we will be plain people, plain people.
There will be no trees where my son and I live.
There will be no pick up trucks with beds for trunks
there will be no pick up trucks, no pick up trucks,
no fucking pick up trucks with beds for trunks.
There will be none.
I’ll teach him to live like he’s got barbed-wire hands,
like his jaw is a bear trap and his tongue, a great bear
so that the forest can keep being sacred.
It isn’t fair, I just want the forest to keep being sacred.
Abby Radcliffe is located in Indianapolis. She is currently earning an MFA in poetry from Butler University while teaching at a local elementary school. Her work has appeared in Marian University’s literary journal, “The Fioretti.”