Featured Poet: Anna Birch, Newmarket / Hollis
Anna Birch grew up in Hollis NH, and now lives in Newmarket. She has successfully operated her own local one-woman art company, Queen Oscar Designs, for over a decade. Her poetry aims to bring humor and insight to the absurdities and complexities of everyday life and relationships. Anna graduated from UNH, and has been an active part of the seacoast poetry community for many years, participating in various school programs, workshops and readings. She has been a member of Portsmouth’s City Hall Poets since 1995, and she is currently revising and compiling her first collection of poems.
“Into the forest” was written based on land in Hollis NH, where I grew up. I think the woodlands and forests that we experience as children take on special significance in our psyches, they leave an ‘imprint’, so to speak, and this poem was an effort to reflect that. The poem includes some of my own experiences among the trees, as well as some of my family’s experiences. However, my hope in writing the poem was that it would tap into some of that universal experience of being in the woods. I often write poems that follow a short narrative- and many of them take place with people, indoors. This poem was an effort to bring some of those same characters & forces present in my work- and connect them to something much bigger, the archetypal forest.
Into the Forest
We enter the company of these pines
and poplars, smaller
than we are on the street,
ampitheater of curved earth,
glacial remnants that hold us
in their dense worn shadow.
The old women in town
follow the wood roads in deep,
wade through towering ferns
then hover and bend
for mayflower blooms
uncovered from last year’s leaves.
Mother searches for dark mushrooms here
breaks me off a black birch sapling twig to chew,
shows me the poisin nightshade berries,
the wintergreen berries,
teaches me how to choose.
We climb into old cellarholes
and tell the story again and again
of the old Bailey family
whose house caught fire here
in the middle of the night,
and the seven children
that raced into the moonless woods
in only their weightless gowns and bedclothes.
Here is where we once carved our names
into the bark, and the grove
where the boys in town tried to take us
on Friday nights. Forest
where we are shamed and sustained
where we kissed and sang and lost our breath
and where my brother has wandered off to again
lost among the moss green carpet
his two pale white legs
bright among these darkened trees.
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