The woman emerged from the forest
behind the house, as if she’d become lost
in an intricate dream, or a fairy tale:
as if she’d been wandering in the wood
for so long that her hair had turned gray
and her clothes were worn to rags.
It was one of those cool, gray mornings
where the mist clings to the treetops,
and one of the stories in the newspaper
was about a mysterious shower of apples
falling from the sky over a small British town,
and any otherworldly thing seemed possible.
I was sitting on the back porch with a cup
of hot coffee in my hand, steam rising
in the cold air, and I watched as if in a dream
as the woman slowly grew closer.
Her hair, fine as cobwebs, was pulled up
in a knot at the back of her head,
and the pale fabric of her nightgown
dragged behind her in the thick grass.
I set my cup on the table and rose.
It would take only a moment
to walk down the wooden steps
and cross the grass to meet her,
to stand close enough to see her face,
deeply lined, still soft from sleep.
I already knew that she would
mistakenly call me by her daughter’s name,
and I would take her inside for a blanket
and a cup of hot tea, and together,
we would sit near a bowl full of roses
and look through the phone book
for the familiar number
that she could no longer recall.
But for as long as I walked down
the wooden steps and crossed the thick grass
she was still wandering out of the forest,
in search of elusive words of advice or a magic ring,
or the single kiss that would turn back time
and break the spell.
Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and two chapbooks. Her third chapbook, In the Chair Museum, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press in 2013. Browning’s fiction, poetry, essays, and articles have previously appeared in a variety of publications including Queen’s Quarterly, 42opus, Blood Orange Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Heron Tree, The Literary Bohemian, and Corium, as well as on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, and in several anthologies. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review. Her personal website is located at http://www.leahbrowning.com.