On their walk through the forest he eyes
a green quarter inch of life dangling
in the moist air by a thin thread.
He cups it in his boy hands —
these days everything is metaphor to her
what with the coffins piling up in parking lots,
children all over the world, shut
inside for safe keeping.
But the boy & his grandmother live beside a forest,
& today they’ve slipped into its green arms
in search of signs: a pale bud or
witches’ holes dug in the mossy floor.
At the beaver pond they find the damn
breached, the old pond bled out,
only the whited bones of dead stumps
stab high into the air.
The boy & the grandmother follow
the stream deeper into the forest
than they’d dared go before.
Black muck sucks at their boots.
The boy worries they’ve gone too far.
The grandmother knows
they’ll never find their way back to where
they were before.
Silently, she’s trying to measure
the distance they’ve travelled from the time
when the pink graph with death sleeping
under its shoulder appeared on the screen.
She’s trying to measure the odds,
to recall the old fable about the spell,
the incantation intoned.
The boy cups the inch worm
closer against his chest, says he’s afraid.
Please, he implores, I want to go home.
Kathleen Sullivan lives with her husband in the woods at the end of a long dirt road in Freeport, Maine. She has worked as a psychotherapist for over fifty years and now finds delight when the faces of her patients emerge on the screen in her digital office. She has been published in various poetry journals and anthologies including Poetry Lore, Cafe Review, Balancing Act 2. She is the co-editor of the 2019 book, A Dangerous New World, Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis and is currently working on a memoir.