109. Stepping Into The Woods

Turn around. The woods have swallowed

you already. The way in is easier

than the way out. Obey these rules:


stay on the path. Do not follow the lights

that flicker on the edge of sight.

Do not eat the bread crumbs,


or listen to the voices, though they echo

through you like the promise of home.

Begin to forget that word: it’s only


a place you return to and find

no longer exists. Like a cabin

braced with candy canes, lovely


to see, dangerous to touch.

You’ll meet strangers on the way.

Speak to them if you must,


but give them nothing, tell them nothing.

What sharp teeth they have.

Others have come here


before you, but few have left. Curiosity

can consume you. You may think

you see your parents, your lover.


Do not run to them. If you come to a cabin

with legs, walk past it. The skittering

behind you may grow distant in time.


Try not to dream of what may have been.

Distrust what you see. Remember the tale

of the girl who took the stranger’s


generosity, how he dragged her

through the streets in a spiked barrel,

or chewed her bones clean. Learn


that trust can kill, and that death

is not the worst thing that can happen

to the young. If you must sleep,


do not dream. The woods enfold

you now, thick as blankets. I tell

you the truth: they are patient


as wolves, hungry as winter.

— Izzy Wasserstein

Izzy Wasserstein was born and raised on the Great Plains and currently teaches at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. She received her MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2006. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Flint Hills Review, Blue Mesa Review, Coal City Review, BorderSenses and elsewhere.


One thought on “109. Stepping Into The Woods

  1. The imagery of this poem is both familiar, through the use of fairy tales, and uniquely frightening and alarming (albeit truthful)! I’ll read this many times. Loved it!

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