PHILOMELA: NEST BUILDING
I gave up on humanity,
looked for succour in the language of birds,
in their comings and goings to a nest in the trees.
I watched how they gathered
the smallest things. How their weaving made circles.
I began to see how one stem could fit with another,
each fibre a memory in its proper place
and this damaged self learned how to build, learned
the uses of a beak. I was a creature among creatures
beginning to know the stillness of forest ways.
No judgment, no shame, and water, like a sanctuary
was always running, always knew where it was going.
I gathered birchwood branches,
like time in no particular order, from the chaos
of bark, tied each one piece by piece. It took
patience. This easing of curved bark,
this tying and retying, over and over is how
I loved myself again, reordering the tricks
of time, conjuring survival.
Some days, I was tempted to make fire, burn
everything and disappear forever, surrendering
to a stolen future. But hope was
another kind of flame. In daylight, I considered
the uses of vengeance. At night, I fell exhausted
into nightmares but my own feathered nest
was waiting each morning, just as I had left it.
Something to take hold of. Another use for my knife.
A GIRL IN THE WOODS
I make myself clean in the forest,
I brush my arms over the ferns.
It’s better when it rains and
the forest is sighing with damp.
It holds water like a sacrifice.
I give it blood. It holds blood.
The trees give me their silence,
always there, under the moon.
I walk in the forest until my lungs ache.
I walk fast, up bouldered paths. I lose
The way. It’s better like that, losing
your way. No hope of being found.
There’s nothing to lie in the dark
waiting for, biting your lip. Nothing
to wait for and want, so it’s over and
done with. Nothing to be blamed for.
You don’t have to be clean, or worry
how you look. You can get clean there.
You can lean against the bark of a tree
and make yourself clean. No-one sees.
Muddy girl in the woods, painting it red.
And leaves make good bandages.
You fix them like a bracelet. Fix them.
Fix everything. No-one ever needs to know.