There is a kind of history flat as table-land, but ours
dived deep the night we discovered windows
lambent in candlelight behind scalloped isinglass.
We knocked. The forest-dwellers, those we
feared, whose shadows doubled in our stereo-opticon
parlor games, seemed smaller, almost human,
close up, in suits. Seven, red-bearded, they stood
shoulder to shoulder against the cold lip of the hearth,
grinning. As we approached, fingers outstretched,
we realized the tweeds in their Yorkshire jackets
were flecked with fungi, twigs, pods, eggshells,
tiny claws. The moss-lined shelves behind them
in the inglenook held spines of fox, bear, raccoon,
badger and wild-cat. Out of the shadows loomed
wing-backed armchairs in peat-brown plush.
Tatted antimacassars glittered like tiaras on their
high backs. As our tear-reddened eyes grew
accustomed to the dimness, we made out more
sylvan bric-a-brac: moleskin smoking caps tasseled
in corn-silk, mats of lark-bone work, coyote whiskers
under glass, pine-cone snifters. Ah, family men—
these foresters are not alone. Nearby their sisters
and sweethearts are busy, poring over the latest
instructions for slipper garlands, kilt hose, tobacco
pouches lined in violent shades of satin, cushions
stuffed with the down of new-born swans. I caught
my brother’s gaze and asked him with my eyes,
“Little Hans, where are the sisters, the fond ones?”
He backed against the fireplace. The green men
flanked him, crinkling their eyes and nodding.
Something white, a petticoat ribbon or stray curl paper,
fluttered on the grate. The foresters linked arms
and clipped my brother round the waist. As if posing
for a regimental portrait, they stood tall, proud,
facing me, grinning from ear to ear to ear.
Mary Kaiser’s chapbook Falling into Velázquez was awarded the 2006 Slapering Hol Chapbook Prize. Her poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, New Orleans Review, and PMS, among others. She is currently working on a series of poems about the nineteenth-century Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. She received a Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts for 2009-10. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama and teaches English at Jefferson State Community College.
RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture, http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume Three (2009): Immanence/ Imminence