by Aline Dolinh, 16
Oakton High School, Vienna, Virginia


1. Someone told you all the best fairytales involve strange wooded houses and autumn nights. In September, the forest is a knotted green ribbon with neatly tucked tails, just waiting for a hero to ensnare.

9. Look for the daffodils. Their belled heads are blooming in the dirt,

crowned in sharp gold against the haze of summer, and you’ll be close.

11. The adventurers become a row of boots trampling the undergrowth,

a swath of footprints marring fresh-fallen snow.

The wind bites red at their bare wrists.

8. The songbirds' beaks are full of melody,

but the chirping is nothing but high-pitched and petulant

when filtered through the porch on soft drowsy mornings.

5. There are stories of a corpse in these woods – a girl graying in the undergrowth,

with tapered white limbs and a slim sapling neck. Don’t go looking.

4. Brush off the Radio Flyer you find near the deck, still cherry-red under the dusted spiderweb skirts. The wagon still waits for its owner,

wheels rutted in the grass.

2. There are dead fish in the lake. Anyone can see their round bugged eyes,

the gills sparkling with ice

like they tried to drink the pale glaze of a drowning.

10. The paneled doors croak open

in a decidedly anticlimactic manner.

3. The sun is an egg-yolk yellow, running weakly through the trees.

The melting snowdrifts still bear old footprints.

7. The screen door hangs wide open on its hinges. Try not to pay attention to the gory wounds, the sliced mesh peeling limply from the siding.

6. Stormy air sings like wire. The old telephone poles sway gently from strung-up branches, just barely threatening sparks.

12. Andromeda is hanging high tonight, suspended in her stellar bouquet.

Sometimes the best story is the row of one thousand dancing princesses,

all bearing beacons just to take you home.


Written in Response to Juan Felipe Herrera's "Five Directions to My House"