The Fern Ticket II, Zakiya Mckenzie

Close up of blackberry flower

The Fern Ticket II by Zakiya Mckenzie

A poem for our centenary project writers in the forest.

She checked to see what time it was. Looking up at the sun, she smiled because the rainclouds that had splashed the morning seemed to have moved on. The laces on her boots were dark brown with mud, but she made sure to hold the hem of her dress to save it from the woodland floor. She hurried past the cherry-lined row and picked up a leaf from a pretty tree. Leaf in hand, with the song of jingling bangles, she continued towards the meeting point. She hummed a tune her older sister had taught her.

At the meeting point, the bramble grew thick and hardy. Someone had even said they saw a grass snake disappear into the bushes once, its’ yellow neck band and haunting tongue zig-zagging away with it. The old logs her sister told her to expect were there but covered in ferns, it must have been a long time since her sister saw the space. Here, plants could grow free and sturdy. Today, so would she.

The pinkish white flowers of blackberry bloom dotted the scene. So did the vivid yellow-orange lichen which stood out with brash character against the backdrop of greens and browns. She slowed down when she got to the old hazel and walked into the taller grass to wipe some of the mud away from her boots. She stood up now and allowed her dress to fall, smoothing it out and walking towards the shadiest part of the hideaway. She looked up at the sun and wondered if she was too anxious, too early, but she heard the rustling and the soft steps of his gentle stride upon mudded grass in the opposite direction from where she came.

By the time she spun around he was meandering towards her like a fox in his forest. She didn’t notice the nerves; the way his thumb scraped against the walking stick in his left hand and the sweaty palm of his right. He too had only heard of this spot in the forest but never had he walked this far to find it for he had never had a reason to. But now, she was the reason and it was time to do what they had come to do.

He dropped the stick and tried to dry his hand on his shirt. As soon as he was in front of her he looked from one of her eyes to the next and again. He was unsure of his next move but trusted that in this part of the woods, with just her, they would do no wrong. Even with the church bells in the distance. He was surprised when, wary of his hesitance, she took one small step forward, raised on her toes a bit and put her face in front of his. His eyes were still open and wide when she placed her lips on his.

The world stopped. Time immortal took precedence and they entered a plane where only they existed. For a nanosecond they felt nothing, for the forest itself had halted to be. But like the crash of a flood that cleans everything anew, the feeling soon rushed in and flushed them with joyful frenzy. A steadied frenzy, for they kissed as if it was the one true moment and the one true place this was to happen. As if there was no need to rush for nothing could wipe away the moment of what is to be. They saw lightening and heard thunder, and amidst it all, they were together. Weathering the storm, riding the wave, filling the forest with life and love uninhibited. Everything around them sang with joy for them.   It felt like a good forever.

“This is the first of forever,” she said

“Like the evergreen who watches us now”, he replied.

“This is our timber-land, our place. Everyone has their moment but I’m sure the protector of the trees won’t mind us carving this bit of wood in our minds.”

“It is where we first made our mark in the world. Hallowed ground, this spot.”

He held out his hand, she put hers in his, they walked toward the tolling bell, they walked in bliss.

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Writing in the forest is affirming. It owes me nothing and didn’t ask me to say these things
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