For Margaret Randall
They are made of death.
I knew that
before anyone told me.
They do not belong
in the lush green of the forest,
among these ferns,
these conifers, this smell
of maples leaves and holly. They surge
in the night, surrounding me
with a constant fear
of what I will become.
For years I didn’t understand
my fear, until the day I learned
the truth: before I could speak,
one entrusted to love me
held me down, placed a terrible
mushroom deep in my mouth, and choked
my narrow throat. It was too much reality
for a three-year-old in a pink party dress,
patent leather shoes, too soon for one
so recently born to be thrust
into the death’s slippery truth.
Language was what let me out;
words were the breadcrumbs
I followed to escape
the cannibal witch’s cottage,
the wizard’s laboratory of poisons.
But even today the path is still lined
with those horrid white weapons,
those terrible stalks
that sprout up
from the dead.
Jeannine Marie Pitas is a teacher, writer and translator. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Or/And (Paraclete Press 2023) and Things Seen and Unseen (Mosaic Press 2019). She is the translator or co-translator of twelve books by Latin American writers, most recently Uruguayan poet Silvia Guerra's A Sea At Dawn, co-translated by Jesse Lee Kercheval, forthcoming from Eulalia Books in Fall 2023. She lives in Pittsburgh and teaches at Saint Vincent College. More information at: www.jeanninemariepitas.com