he snaps his barbed jaws made of thin sticks— you know
the kind that
SNAP and CRACK ominously underfoot when the woods have grown too
quiet, too calm, for all to be well
teeth gnashing— this the sound of dead leaves skittering against pavement and river rocks at dusk (that time when you need to settle down and get a fire started, but you’re not quite sure of where you are)
wandering the woods in search for something he will never find
hysterical, eternally lost his
are the dim, barely there glow of camp fires that go out too early
fingers the cold that creeps around the base of your sleeping bag and along your neck
cheek bones the sun-bleached sides of mountains
his voice is the unrecognizable call from some animal you cannot identify in the depths of the woods, but not so deep that you cannot imagine it coming towards you. not so deep that the sound doesn’t make your hair stand on end.
his feet are bound with the ghost skins of snakes that lurk under rocks, darting out only when you have one foot precariously balanced on its side.
he travels — howling and yowling like some hell cat out of deep
mountain lore— starved, half crazed, ravenous
fever hot and parched
his mouth a voracious, vacuous, vorpal cave
that leads down into his river stomach— that part of the river you thought was deep, but revealed its true nature with the electric sting of broken legs after jumping.
his howl is the pounding of the wind at your tent
angry hands running broken glass claws against your skin as you walk against it.
he is jealous of those who wonder the wood for he has no true home.
his ribs the skeletons of eerie, too thick mountain laurel trees and the hollow shells of long fallen oaks.
the light of the moon burns his moth-wing skin on nights when the forest is full of her radiance. so he yowls, furious and powerless
rattling and shaking his bones — the dead arms of trees that stretch out over too steep mountains, acid burnt and raw
his name could have been pestilence to the christians
but only the Natives know his name and only whisper it lowly
and on nights when the wind is calm and he cannot hear their summons—
his only purpose is that he has none.
his motivation is endless hunger
that is older than the mountain itself-
or maybe it was born with the mountain…
he in his rabid madness has long forgotten the origin of his emptiness.
he is hungry, and you are in his wood.
written at the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.