Alone in the Woods 
By Kelly Grace Thomas
When I was younger, 
before society broke me with its measuring stick and lies of passage,
I used to walk in the woods. 
That overgrown sage and pitch pine promise let me look deep inside.
Buried in a thicket of trust woven between must and beauty, 
I couldn’t quiet understand, 
but knew it somehow touched me. 
I knew the woods, before I was this person, 
Before I learned to be scared. 
Scared like a soul that walks across the thin ice with barefooted numbed puffed feet
Scared like a child left alone in the dark, shuddering and shaking with each unfamiliar noise
Scared like an animal left in the rain, fur bunched, whole body shiver, head down.
The woods knew me, back before makeup covered my skin,
deprecating my face
Back before I dressed myself in a curtain of defense,
a superhero cloak of mourning .

The woods walked with me,
hand and hand,
whispering their lullabye
the call to confidence, the founders of friendship.
We danced like this, for awhile
Quietly. Asking nothing of one another.
Until my ears went deaf And my soul shrunk in judgement of myself and of others.
While the million apologies left my lips, praying in the four directions to find the right path, to be able listen again.
They didn't tell me to doubt myself the way I do now,
society did.

All the next door neighbors and front porch, ice-tea sipping gossip.
All the hallway stolen glances from teenage puppy love never tossed in my direction.
All the not good enough commentary that covered the pages that held my soul,
sewn in a handwriting, that scaled the wall of self discipline and self- punishment.
The woods tried to stop this.
They asked me to stay.
But they were too late.

The trees didn’t know how to compare.
They didn’t swing on porch swings admiring the fancy cars in driveways.
They didn’t read the marriage announcements or town gossip in the Sunday paper.
They didn’t speak of university degrees or bank accounts like they were virtues of god.
They only grew from the earth,
their roots grounded.
And rustled their leaves
and looked to me to listen,
to watch,
to play,
to learn,
to whisper
and feel the way they did.
On a soft summer day When the sun filters
in through the maple leaves
looking like the strings of a harp.

In the woods I danced,
after school had let out and the boys finally stopped teasing.
It was late July, the earth smelled cinnamon sweet
and I was alone.

Alone in the woods.
No names
no skirts to put on or ladders to climb.
No lies to tell or secrets to hold with a cramped knuckled grip.
No sides to pick
Or words to slip.
Or crocodile tears to drip
down my hot cheek.
A small glimpse of how a little girl felt deep down.
No one knew, because no one asked.
Only the woods.
Me and them Just peace.
And breath.
A dance and whisper.
They played me their symphony
Serenading my arrival.

The flowers didn't know there were girls prettier than me.
The squirrels didn’t know I would soon stop climbing trees with them.
The birds didn’t know I was always picked last, and sometimes not at all.
They just sung their song, of minor chords,
glad I could listen.
Accepting me into their chorus.

The woods never asked me why I had come,
they knew the root cause.
Held me in their branches, long enough to make me whole again.
They always knew why I came,
but neither one of us could tell you why I left.
I wonder now,
after all this time apart,
if they will welcome me again,
accepting yet another apology.