Words for the various levels of hell.
Words for the forest, the trails worn against it.
To name such places was to name limbo,
the way shot through with longing and starlight.
Each journey begins with loss
though when young we were taught to call it setting.
Then, to list it with other devices.
To touch it and put it down when we’re done.
On the floor, a mess of needles and soil.
Under the moss, rocks and water.
In the corners our forms moved
against each other, if movement was right
for the chosen word.
It’s important to write the ending first.
Not that you met someone else
but that frost is an alternate ending for night.
They called it the end but this was a circle.
Wasn’t the beginning a forest?
Wasn’t it dark?
In the underbrush branches shuddered.
Birds called how they do
when animals move through the distance below them.


Michael Goodfellow is the author of the poetry collections Naturalism, An Annotated Bibliography (2022) and Folklore of Lunenburg County (2024), both published by Gaspereau Press. His poems have appeared in the Literary Review of CanadaThe Dalhousie ReviewThe Cortland ReviewReliquiae and elsewhere. He lives in Nova Scotia.

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