(c) Nin Harris 2003-2016
Daughter of tar highways and steel-winged
flights, I belong to this age where
travels have become rat race transits
clogged with humans in metal cages
within subterranean regions bookmarked in cranial
parameters the trail starts inconvenient –
meandering through almost-invisible
paths into the thick of trees.
Once, roots and twigs crammed
commutes interlaced with hosts of fanged
and invisible passengers shivering
thoughts, freezing veins;
claiming pathways and exacting tolls
eked out of terror-filled imaginings
“We must shut them out!”
More roads built with stones,
clearings paved with sacrifices,
industrial accidents and tears of widows.
“These entities of nature are everywhere
and they are the enemy of virtue! ”
We persisted and bartered for an imposed, uneasy truce.
The woods outside dwindled but
inside our heads they loomed larger
and more threatening – becoming
metaphors for journeys, travels, bargains –
forked roads suggesting choice over fate.
In my youth I shuddered away
from nightmares where branches
looked like hungry claws while
slanted eyes wait all-patient for me
to slip out of hallowed light.
Adolescence: sleeping within thin wood-plank walls
of weekend retreats, nocturnal bovine sounds became
voracious tigers skulking through rubber plantations;
totems who still stalk my dreams
and taunt me with wordless koans.
I promised that adulthood would find me
nestled within a city far from
the woods: encircled by brick and cement walls
the Big Bad Wolf could not blow down.
Brother Tiger will not be able to eat me if
I am cushioned by public utilities.
I will no longer fear things that tap
from outside windows and jeer at
me from just beyond the
penumbra of safe sleep.
This helps me understand why highways are
built and why they fear as they huddle in
governments and conclaves that
shut out the woods; magic and
individuality of errant journeymen
who would dance between the trees
and shamans who climb tireless up
(g)hosted trunks to mate the heavens.
My dreams still shiver resolve but my waking self
mourns the physical forests and childhood adventures
of mind. Weep for stories of journeys that were
more than just literary devices and metaphors. Weep
for a world sliding here and there on scales of
In cemented underground parking lots
wolves without fur still exist; devoid of grace and
innocence they denude the furred and feathered
hunters of mythic woods – murder both the Wolf and Red Riding Hood.
I fear this unnatural forest of human hate and
enclosures of cement and steel more than
the dark enclosures between trees, more than
Brother Tiger laughing at me through doorways
in dreams. I fear more the empty eyes of humans
lacking love; desiring only annihilation
and satisfaction of the lower chakras
while the screams and pleadings of
their victims become epodes for
You have denuded the jungle but your replacements
are more terrifying. You cannot remove these
woodland quests, only mutate the labyrinth.
There are still paths to keep to and safety in numbers.
“Be bold but not too bold”
when you’re wandering a tar and cement forest
through office buildings and travails up
corporate ladders, senates and pop-charts. Discard
the red hood of womanly desire and awareness
for it is still the mark of the harlot and tells them you
deserve what you get. It assures virtuous women
they’d be safe from wild animals lurking outside
if they hide inside your walls and
agree not to live.
Remember: do not desire more than
we have decided you can have- Bluebeard
still waits with his casting couch in a bloody
castle at the forest’s heart. The dismembered
arms and heads of your sisters should teach you
a lesson you’ll never forget.
Remember: the cost of knowing more
than we have decided you should – it
is the mark of waywardness and we’ll only
throw you into the pond to make sure you can’t
swim for if we were meant to be in water we’d surely be given fins.
Unconscious memory filters these
highways we speed down, exacting a toll on
our minds even as we nudge
aside collective guilt – create new lore
out of screaming headlines and electronic mass
Won’t you dance between the trees with me?
Let us outwit Robber Bridegrooms and wicked Kings.
– climb up fanciful trunks of enlightenment so stars
may annoint us with courage beyond these binary woods.
I know we can be bold here – within these forests
of our souls. Let us laugh at distorted
reflections on windows with ever-tapping
branches; begging us to please let the Outside in.
(18 August 2003- 9 October 2003)