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 M. Pitas is the author of Things Seen and Unseen, a book of poems published by Mosaic Press in 2019, and the translator of work by many Latin American poets, most recently Carnation and Tenebrae Candle by Marosa di Giorgio (Cardboard House 2020) and We Do Not Live In Vain by Selva Casal (Veliz Books 2020). She lives in Iowa and teaches at the University of Dubuque.