By Elizabeth Gosney

I never seriously considered running away.
I just liked to pretend.
With kerchief and branch, I marched into the woods.
There it was quiet, still
But alive.
The trees guarded me in green glory,
Their limbs stretched out, shielding me from harm.
The pointed ferns stroked my bare ankles,
Their pollen painted my pant legs.
The slime of slugs glistened on the moss-clad logs.
The soft mud, oozing with the remains of the dead, clung to my shoes
Like a child to his mother.
I walked determined, a girl with no destination.
I stretched my stubby legs wide, hurdling a fallen tree.
For one moment out of a thousand, my eyes fell downward.
There sat a toad, an inch from my stomping foot.
An inch from death.

Here the trees have morphed into buildings.
The noise wraps my head in a vice --
Squeezing, pressing, crushing.
From behind closed lids, I run away to the trees.
They reach out to me, my towering brothers.
I straddle the log and see the toad.
Unaffected, unacknowledging, unaware.

I am the toad.