Every wood I’ve stepped into
has a watchful crone, a witch whose skin
resembles the bark of an ancient oak.

She spins her wool by moonlight,
she threads her fingers through the moss,
and knows exactly which mushrooms to pick.

I don’t need my hearing to feel the changes
in the wind when she slips out of the gaps
between the rocks and the trees, her voice

I feel in the roots I step on, in the stones
I try to avoid with my bare feet that always
manage to bruise me, test the calluses I’ve grown

with each stride I’ve taken through these trees.
I’ve sung to her beneath the arms of the beeches
reaching towards the birches, though she never

listens to me. I imagine she laughs at the tune
I cannot keep, before moving on, gathering weeds
by the stars, mixing potions to use on people

like me, who would walk into her arms gladly,
wishing she were an old aunt I could visit to learn
everything about this world she keeps to herself.

Copyright © 2023 by Kris Ringman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 5, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.