a multi-level triptych


[1] Woodsman’s Lint-Licked Pockets

after Leśnik, the Slavik forest deity


[a] Woodsman protects the forest by writing messages into the rocks. Messages in clock talk Woodsman doesn’t understand. Messages in dirt. In fur. In bark. Important forest, he writes. Formative forest. Former corner, cornered form.


[b] With beard of grass and vine, Woodsman wears skin of reed and tree and string. His stomach is a lake of fish. The torch he carries bares a blue flame. It assists in guiding his moon, in practicing the magic of being alone. Silence hangs like a stranger from his blanketed shawl.


[c] Townsfolk knock on Woodsman’s door but rarely does Woodsman sing. Hands of shamrocks, hands of stockings, pocketed stones to throw days later. The cave is vacant. They’ve named it. It pours from within.


[2] Witch in Her Cloud Coughs Away from the Town


[a] Witch collects an assembly of teeth. Horse, wolf, fox, man, beast. A new pair to wear every day. When night arrives, she returns the teeth to their jars as if to the jaws where once they helped. She closes her eyes. Her mouth like a child’s, as soft as cave.


[b] Witch lives in a cellar behind the stove and is known to mimic a mouse. She spins thread to honor the dead and climbs back up to her cloud.


[c] This is Witch with the horse made of crows. Witch with the most vocal of vocalist ghosts. Her footprints, her claw marks in the bark of the trees. Her bear paces its cage. Her bear is so decorated in circles and still it does not help.


[3] Play


[a] Witch, Woodsman, Horse and Bear prepare a miniature play. A play on explanation, reads the letters in the bark. A play about town.


[b] The stage is the forest. The townsfolk arrive in nines. Everything melts, swells, regenerates, opens. Townsfolk laugh up fully grown townsfolk. Bubbling, festering, elderly births. Woodsman knocks and saws down their horns. From launch to harvest, the moon turns into an orange. Then later a point, then later a skull.


[c] Witch grabs with hands of ash. Witch touches trees and touches leaves and touches Woodsman and touches townsfolk and everything is coated in ash and many rush to cleanse but many, too, remain, leaving their stains in place, feeling this charcoal darkness, their feet spread wide like trees.

Benjamin Niespodziany is a Pushcart Prize and Best Microfiction nominee with work in Fence, Hobart, Wigleaf, Sporklet, and various others. He works nights in a library in Chicago.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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