The forest is dark, dank, humus-perfumed.
Each footfall cushioned by the spongy floor of
needles-becoming-soil that betrays no clear
path. You lift your foot and the print is swallowed
up, concealed. You may as well be traversing
a bog or a swamp. Has the name of your
destination escaped you, ingested by your
wandering thoughts? Are you scurrying
from the oven? What happened to Gretel? Birds
chatter and sing, in greys and browns they
blend into the dark canopy overhead. You
cannot see them, but they must be there,
like the path you despair to follow, right?
In your pocket, not breadcrumbs, but a stale,
oaty granola bar. Too hard to bite, too stiff
to break, small chunks rub off, burnishing
the bar that you dare not eat. Not yet, anyway.
On the log where you pause, gauging
your progress, red ants commute back
and forth, with their miniature groceries, bags
of take-out sally forth, insect provisions,
each with more prudence than you possess.
How is it we decide we are lost?
Slowly, with piercing questions of identity and
self-flagellation, perhaps. Why
pay attention now, when before you were too
caught up in the intricacies of moss,
say, or hunting for chanterelles. (Do you
realize what they’re worth?) Gingerly,
stupidly, you begin to leave your trace, those
crumbs from your pocket. What is it
you are marking? Already been down this
path? You persist, remembering a gripping
story about one who didn’t give up, in whose
tale, the hero was played by that young
what’s-his-name with his forty-eight
hour shadow of a beard. Later, when you
stumble upon your own breadcrumbs again,
you realize, ah, yes, it’s not a fairy tale, but
some kind of sick joke: that’s how you’ve
been typecast. Bumbling, anxious, searching
for grace, you stew, how will this end?
Would you recognize the hero of your own story?