You enter the forest
and it seals itself behind you.
How you find the opening
or where doesn't matter.
Only that you have crossed
an invisible threshold
and your previous life
as if it were a snake
shedding, and you had missed
the moment when the old skin
becomes devoid of body and
the new one rustles down a foxhole.
All previous pain you have carried
with you, sewn carefully into secret
chambers, left behind.
The sun fileters through the lace
of leaves scattering into dust
a thousand years old.
The giant mushrooms embrace you
with such tenderness no lover
could ever match.
With each step memory fades.
There is no turning back.
The stench of decay is the only
smell you have ever loved,
the moss your only bed,
this life the only one imaginable.
* * * * *
Carol V. Davis was twice a Fulbright Scholar in Russia. Her work has been read on National Public Radio and Radio Russia. She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg (2002). She teaches at Santa Monica College and was the 2008 Poet-in-Residence at Olivet College, Michigan.
The above poem is published in New Poets of the American West, edited by Lowell Jager.