The body is a place of violence. Wolf teeth, amputated hands. Cover yourself with a cloak of leaves, a coat of a thousand furs, a paper dress. The dark forest has a code. The witch sometimes dispenses advice, sometimes eats you for dinner, sometimes turns your brother to stone.

You will become a canary in a castle, but you’ll learn plenty of songs. Little girl, watch out for old women and young men. If you don’t stay in your tower you’re bound for trouble. This too is code. Your body is the tower you long to escape,

and all the rotted fruit your babies. The bones in the forest your memories. The little birds bring you berries. The pebbles on the trail glow ghostly white.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Raw Honey

December 1, 2017

He draws on the iron claws
forged by the blacksmith,
eats the raw meat and honey
the villagers have brought him,
last of all
pulls on the thick pelt.
Dark smell, earth smell.

Now, you say, he becomes a bear.
Truly a bear, though summerlong
he’s lived among them
learning to hunt and growl,
learning bees and old gods.

What happens next? I ask.
We’re skin and skin,
the night’s around us
as your lips move, storyteller.

Next, you say, he goes into the woods
where the wolf-demon dwells.
The villagers never see him
again, their protector,
but their milk stays uncurdled,
cows’ tails uncut, bones unbroken.
They know he saved them.

But they never speak of him.

Only the witch remembers,
wise-eyes makes an offering
yearly, on the day the bear walked
into the demon woods.
She burns rowan, brings honey
and sweet, sweet berries
for him
who heard the bear king’s last breath,
who killed the demon,
who was man and bear
and asked for nothing.

Silence. I’m crying
as you do, after a story.
We drift to sleep.

I dream of iron claws and honey.

Sara Norja