When I was very young, I used to dream
of a hole in the woods I could run through
where the spirits of the house would creak
and clatter after me like smoke,
and we would dance in the moonlight
in that slow way that plants do
as they move toward the sun, dance
until my hands and feet turned black,
either from the residue or the heat
of the dancing. I would see a large animal
and pretend to bandage its leg.
I would bring the baby bird
to its nest in my hair. I would sit
with the small mammal I thought
was a rabbit on top of the trampoline
until it took its last breath,
having been grabbed by the dog
of the soccer mom’s child
at a party. In the trees behind the house,
I would put the soft body back
and cover him in acorns, watch
as the other creatures nearby ran from me
to tell the one who bids them
into the yard and under houses, it was gone.
You only see him when you’re very young,
the thing that makes the forest
go dark at night and flutter
back to life each morning,
but I believe there is reason
to think he exists, beyond the standard
realm of city life; there are the pieces
of evidence: The patch of soil
at the new house where shoots
of asparagus rose up overnight.
The bramble of blackberry
on the back fence. Surprise Lilies.
Plum trees ripening despite
the split right down the middle
of the trunk. Trumpet vine clearing a door
for the cat to enter, bending the chain link
under its ever-growing weight.
When you are very young,
the doors that let the cats in
are also the ones you crawl through.
Under the temporary building, we huddle
together, the soft earth under us
almost breathing. We lose shoes
in the water of the pond we try to jump over,
covered in leaves, but we are never gone for long.
Just long enough to forget what it means,
just long enough to grow up. How do I
avoid retelling the same story of the creature
living next door in the old trees
and abandoned house? I tell it to stay still,
hang tight, while you sleep, I’ll think about how
To keep you from experiencing the rain.
I’ll leave, but I will come back
with the tattoo of an acorn
on my right bicep, and the tools
to know how to give you medicine.
You must be so very old now, and in need.
To a forest spirit living over centuries,
I will always be very young. Lift your head,
open that wide mouth, let me see your teeth.
Clara Bush Vadala is a poet and veterinarian from Van Alstyne, TX. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Magazine, Moss Puppy Magazine, and New South Review, among others.