Apache-Sitgreaves – by Sheila Dong

How the forest is strewn

with tiny invisible lungs

that stick to my shoes.
And how the forest clasps

fingers over my eyes, then
falls aside to give a sun-shattered
meadow, a stand of trees

with branches quivering windless
and thousand-leaved, a sunken
creek glittering with scales. And how
the forest, all night, taps against
my mouth, pleading windy

for me to let it in. I stare at the stars
and think about permitting the forest
inside me. Under my head, the moss
does its cosseting. I gaze and
glaze and graze at the stars,
and decisions become easy. Yes,
I tell the forest, and part my lips.
The greenery surges

my throat (how tart the sap runs)
and then come the branches
pricking out between my ribs, the roots
tightening their lattices round my shins,
the birdsong traces flitting my head. Now
wherever I go, each step trails pine needles.
Where my touch lingers, moss spreads its velour.
People cannot say what has changed about me.
But the forest asked. Now I keep
a piece of it where axes don’t hunt.
Now I nurse dark soil and antler wounds
and every seed. I was asked.
I agreed.

Sheila Dong grew up in Tucson, AZ and graduated with an MFA in poetry from Oregon State University. Their poems have appeared in Old Pal Magazine, Arcturus, Moonsick Magazine, and Menacing Hedge, among other places. Sheila’s first chapbook, titled Moon crumbs, is out now from Bottlecap Press. Find Sheila on Twitter @iouea_.

Art: into the wild, digital illustration, 2019
Artist Statement: this poem brings to mind how wonderful the wilderness of the world is in informing the wilderness within ourselves. I see both the poem and the illustration as an opening, an offering, a wildish sense of peace.