"In the Woods" by Jill Zasadny

by Jill Zasadny Having seen Into the Woods for the first time at Lyric Arts, I did a lot of thinking about the woods, Sondheim's analogous place of danger, turmoil, and change. A place we've all been, though few willingly. But it occurred to me, due to “circumstances beyond my control,” that I feel that I have lost the ability to move. There feels no longer any way to "go into," nor to "go out of." I am simply "in the woods." Of course it isn't at all true: I got here; I can leave, right? Maybe.  But the woods are my abuser and protector alike, yet inflicting pain and shielding me from others who would do the same. Is there a place for me where I am not treed?  I fear meadow and forest alike. Feeling paralyzed, here, in the woods.


Is anyone here with me? Trees are the scapegoats of confusion, Banding together, as is their wont, And casting shadow over might what otherwise seem clear. They do not favor the straight path, the quick run. They passively enforce circumlocution.

I live here, in the woods: A coerced convert to Druidism, I pray for release

and protection alike. They know, as I have resisted knowing, that raised from the woods, I can never assimilate to the plains. I am an orphan renegade. Restless in the woods. And at home here too. I hand pushed up from the earth a wanton seed, probably too shaded, too shallow in my birth place, too thirsty.


And sunlight comes in fingers here, Pointing with Nazi nonchalance,

"You live. You live.

You don't."

Living in the woods is an uneasy sleep. I sense its heartbeat, lion-like. She does not rock me to rest, But waits for my unconsciousness.


We pretend that we can build places of safety, but we all live here in the woods, where wild creatures fly and flee and flesh-feed. Uneasily. For the trees have slowed us; the trees have shown us that life is here, without walls or halls or haloes. Equal to the lowest life... and certain of the same cycle.




In the Woods.

Copyright © 2015 Jill Zasadny. Used with permission of the author.

Jill Zasadny

Jill Zasadny

Jill Zasadny earned her PhD in English from the University of Kansas in 2005. Her work has been published in various editions of poetry; her doctoral work about the foundress of Benedictinism in this country put into original song. She currently teaches at St. Cloud State University and Western Governors University.