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Christmas Holly


Christmas Holly
By Amelia Gorman

I behead you again and again off the trail,
my arms are the dream of the river cartographer.

How long have we played this game together,
how many times have our heads budded and fell?

     The first, in the cold stone castle that creaked
     where stones shouldn't creak. A Christmas game.

     The second in the span of a year, already we're
     magnetic, our skin to our ax. Or weed wrench.

They think the story stopped there, but the story never stops.
You followed me across oceans to try again, succeed again.

To try again at being beheaded by me. By loppers,
by boots and goats and pesticides. Your scratches remind me

and will not heal until you come back again. Oh red night,
O champion, O green. Oh fruit and needles in the park.

     Oh, games in the dark above the arctic circle, we played 
     those too. Spinning wild around, pain mill above our 
     Games in the green glades where we took twice the risk,
     our heads to each other and our legs to the fish beneath.

And here under the redwoods, Stranger, horse trails and horse ferns
bring green wherever you can see. We keep at it, at each other

I lop you again and again and again off the trail. Is this love?
These red berries buried and seed regained, this sharp leaves.

To trace the same pattern again in the cones. Or break, and take your head.

* * *

Amelia Gorman lives in Eureka where she spends her free time exploring forests and tide pools and fostering dogs. Her fiction appears in Nightscript 6 and Cellar Door. Read her poetry in Dreams & Nightmares, Penumbric and Vastarien. Her chapbook, the Elgin-winning Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota, is available from Interstellar Flight Press. Find her online at

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

I feel like I want to talk about and talk through personal things and difficult things and things and (ugh) difficult personal things and I'm also really bad at talking about myself or expressing emotions in a straightforward way. Poetry, and especially fantastical poetry, gives me an oblique way to come at these things and express myself. I'll often see a connection in a fantasy story such as Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight, or Dracula, and be able to explore it in writing.