I meant to leave in the morning,
but now trees effloresce from bedposts,
soughing silhouettes on walls.
Secrets coil ‘round me in thorny
bramble. The wolf waits, teeth bared,
next to my packed suitcase.
Stealthily you materialize; night
incandescent with your yellow moon eyes.
“Don’t tell,” you pant, paw on my chest,
breath moist and hot against my ear.
My body is bone cold.
I’ve never told.
I pretend the forest hides my hands,
my mouth, the missing pieces you
stole from me. I lie still as an alabaster
tomb in the womb of the forest.
You slink away as you came,
fur limned in dawn. Wildwood recedes
in strands of anemic light.
I reach for my suitcase under the bed,
but your teeth are still there.
Mapping the Long Haul
My body is a foreign land,
no longer familiar to me.
In the neuronal forest I need a map
to find my mislaid memories;
the hand that shakes, the electrical
jetway pulsing erratically in time
with my heart. I wander in brume,
sensing landmarks as lightning
stutters, eyes hooded like a bird
of prey, anxious for the falconer,
anticipating remembered flight,
but sight is illusive. No lift of wings,
no songlines in the outback to guide
me; only magnetic earth to navigate
the wound that never heals.
Lungs crackle like tin foil. A million
swallows fail to dislodge the obstacle
in my throat. The irascible cough.
My head spins, the horizon yaws. I tilt
away from my axis, fire gnaws
at nerves, the sun too bright, flight
stunted. I feel myself losing feathers
to the wind, skin purple and raw.
The egg I carry falls, smashing to pieces
like snow. I am falling, too.
Hope is a destination. It matters not
if I arrive. Still I hold fast to its teat
as if it were a compass pointing east
to the land of milk and honey,
where breath billows lungs like sails
on vessels of blood. Spasms like waves
rock my body, every muscle bruised,
aches. And I am tired, so tired
of this journey I was not prepared
to take. My tongue swells, squeezed
between teeth, gums bleed, sores
prohibit speech — if only I could choose
the words I say, but this brain
will not cooperate. And now another
insult: my hair falls out in handfuls.
I need a map to find my way.
But this long haul flight is a maiden
voyage, fraught with monsters
and terrors of the deep. I dare not
At night a tube blows air
into my throat, umbilical cord
grounding me to life. But strife
keeps me awake. The world is no
longer navigable. There are no maps.
I am my own cartographer marking
the clotted terrain, tenderly undoing
knots and kinks, floundering
in unknown seas, longing for relief
from the flutter in my head,
the ringing in my ears. I hear the fog
horn calling, but I am too far away.
Bio: Gayle J. Greenlea is a poet and counselor for survivors of sexual and gender-related violence. Her poem, “Wonderland”, received the Australian Poetry Prod Award in 2011. She shortlisted and longlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize in 2013, and debuted her first novel, Zero Gravity, at the KGB Literary Bar in Manhattan in 2016. Her work appears in St. Julian Press, Rebelle Society, A Time to Speak, Headline Poetry and Press, The Wombwell Rainbow, and Life in Quarantine (Stanford).