Tale from the Vienna Woods


  Skulking vulpine, amber tail —
                       in the woods the vixens wail.
          Brown-rimmed halo crowns a ragged moon —
                                                              rugged forestland suffused
      in gloom.

  Where does evil work begin?

              Fleetingly on briar-thorn the shimmer of a
rictus grin        catches hair
                                                                 and scraps of skin  —

                          shattered mother, barren bride
ravaged by a crow
                                      and thrown       aside.

I hear the rooster shrieking                         crock-a-too
                                blood is pouring from the shoe
                                blood is pouring from the shoe

          Boney fingers spread their greeting
                  from a coven
                                                             woo the wanderers with gingerbread —
                                               throw children in the oven.

          Swaying school bells stalk my dream.
               I hear sirens but                              evade
the searchlight beams.
                                                 Shadow men with pounding feet fly
             along a lamplit street —   road to nowhere
             though way is clear,
                                      the end is fraught with fear.                   

                       Flint-eye squatters occupy the trees
                                                                fixed to storm,   to rise
     to begin their thundering      flight
              screaming     whining
                                                raptors now discharge into the
skies over rooftop, playfield, schoolyard,
                                                                         up into the piercing light

                           down into the bogged blight they
                                                 to an abyss where foxes feed.

Helmet-headed troops unloosed
in the land — the ravens roost.

              As I awake, a hoary specter snags
              a child.   I hear the din —
     her will is strong,                the tale is grim.
                                                                The merry widow waltzes to
                                                                                     a requiem.
            I know the steps but can’t begin.     I’m
                                                                               strangely on the

                                                            looking  in.

Erika Michael is an art historian, painter and poet from Woodway, Washington. Born in Vienna, raised in New York, she’s lived around Seattle since 1966. As a Pratt Institute graduate, Erika worked in animation and as an abstract painter. With a University of Washington Ph.D. in art history, she taught and published in Renaissance Studies and worked in various Northwest museums. A poet for many years, Erika participated in workshops with Carolyn Forché, Linda Gregerson, Thomas Lux and Laure-Anne Bosselaar. Her poems have appeared in Poetica Magazine, Drash: Northwest Mosaic, and Cascade: Journal of the Washington Poets Association, among others.