Heart of the Woods by Colleen Anderson

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Narrated by Colleen Anderson

In these mythic woods
branches twined thick with silence
cedar fronds shrouding light
leeched no matter how bright a day
sentinels in bark uniforms
guard secrets furrowed deep
in the beginnings of time
my footsteps leave no imprint

Earth’s sharp pine tang
musky decay saturates me
I wind toward the nexus
of this primal ground
my footfalls boom and echo
within the cave of my chest
beyond my flesh borders the forest
looking on so quietly, no bird
nor meadow mouse dares peep

There in shifting shadows
the grove clutches a standing man
glowing golden chains link by link
encircle his neck, anchor him
like Saturn’s rings reliant on the gilding
in his open cavity a shackled heart vibrates
a pitch deeper than shades
thrills my chest, ripples oak leaves
and fir needles dance upon the earth

The heart pulses in and out
squeezing like an inhalation
drops red tears onto the leaves
I cannot look away as the man stares
into the cloaking trees I push
free the words, terror filling me
asking who he is, why he is here
he points and says: I am
looking for people without a heart

Shock spears me to standstill
like you, he continues sadly
those who are heartless
I would weep, but feeling froze
long ago shielded from the world’s jabs
he lifts the chains above his head
his gaze green, now brown, now blue
as he peers at me and frowns
the heart contracts, expands
its boom now deafening
the rising screeching screen of birds

Rooted, he drops the chain about my neck
the heart thumps into place
thudding down, bruising my chest
it is yours now, he says and leaves
I am struck numb with growth’s sensation
the chains weigh me, burrows me
into earth and past, and the endless
seeking for what now fills my hollow
freezes me with old deeds and decisions
as I wait, hoping someone wanders by
to relieve me of this burden

BIO: Colleen Anderson lives in Vancouver, BC and has a BFA in writing. She is a multiple award nominee in poetry. Her work has been widely published in numerous venues, including Polu Texni, HWA Poetry Showcases, Shadow Atlas and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. She has edited three anthologies and guest edited Eye to the Telescope, as well as serving on Stoker Award and British Fantasy Award juries. Colleen’s poetry collection, I Dreamed a World, is available from LVP Publications. www.colleenanderson.wordpress.com