My appetite for flowers & easy light. For woodlands
Amniotic, unkempt. The wildest things are most alive.
Fallen trees & their branches, tangled brush & brambles thrive.
All sprawl. No clean footpath or trail to cut. When I quicksand,
Sucked past the forest’s high-water mark, a dull pain floats
Up. Stitched fingers, clammy palms. Threaded nettle hyacinths,
Thorns, spines & stings of noontime, the sun-mote spray. Labyrinth,
Pricks of time ticking on the shore’s soft placket. Those boats,
Such small boats. No sails, no masts. The light pisses splinters.
The swamp spits me out, a tough escape from these haunted bogs.
Only stories, such imprecise words, strew through earnest slogs,
Blinked-out moments below. If I resurface, disinter,
I have lived in this canvas, in this frightening frontier.
Nothing’s discouraged me. I shouldn’t exist, yet I’m here.
Cate McGowan is an essayist, poet, fiction writer, and author of two books—she won the Moon City Short Fiction Award for her debut short story collection, True Places Never Are, which was also a finalist for the Lascaux Short Fiction Collection Prize; her debut novel, These Lowly Objects, appeared in 2020. McGowan’s work is featured in many literary outlets, including Glimmer Train, Norton’s anthology Flash Fiction International, The Citron Review, Shenandoah, and Tahoma Literary Review. A native Georgian, McGowan is a reluctant Sunshine State resident (Heat! Hurricanes! Alligators! Florida Man!). She is currently completing her Ph.D.