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. In the neuronal forest I need a map
to find my mislaid memories. Hands shake; muscles fibrillate out of tune.
I wander a faulty electronic brume, eyes hooded like a bird of prey, anxious
for the falconer to restore remembered flight. Sight is illusive. No lift of wings,
no songlines in the outback to navigate the wound that never heals.
Lungs crackle like tin foil. A thousand swallows will not dislodge the obstacle
in my throat: the irascible cough. Fire gnaws my skin. Ice prickles.
I am molting feathers on the wind, tilting from my axis; sun too bright, flight stunted.
The egg I carry falls, smashes on the rocks like snow. I am falling, too.
Hope is a destination. I hold fast to its teat as if it were a compass pointing east
to a land of milk and honey where sails billow on vessels of blood.
Spasms are waves; every joint bruised, aches. I am weary of this journey
I was not prepared to take. Tongue swells, gums bleed, sores mock speech.
If only I could choose the words I speak, but electric footsteps falter. And now
another insult: my hair falls out in handfuls.
I need a map to find my way, but Long Haul Covid is a maiden voyage,
fraught with terrors of the deep. I dare not sleep.
The world no longer navigable, I am my own cartographer. I mark the clotted
terrain, tenderly undo knots and kinks, yearning for relief.
I hear the fog horn calling — or is it ringing in my ears? 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).