We find a spider giving birth in the woods. I think it's cool. Kim does not. She runs and I follow because she has been here before. Look, she says. She is pointing to a patch of saplings that look like sea urchins. I look at them and feel emerald. They're gonna grow up but not all of them will survive, Kim says. How many will survive? She shrugs, says, it depends on how many of them are strong enough. I claw at the fly bite on my palm until it stings and I realize that I am calm but not happy. Kim talks about biomes but I say nothing because I have never been here before. I feel like I can breathe better here, she says. Thinking about my lungs makes me dizzy so instead I squint and watch les libellules and I don't flinch when they buzz past my hair because I am calm but not happy. The lake is piercing and hot and glimmers so sharply that the minnows look like they are exploding. I wonder what it would be like to explode, to be in multiple places at once but not know it. I wonder if I have been here before. I am feral, like I have stepped on an ant hill but maybe it's just sweat bubbling like spit on my ankles. Kim says, it's almost three. I think I am strong enough. We tightrope-cross a groaning log like squirrels scampering along a fence and suddenly there is an abandoned building, gray and indignant. I have been here before, or I am all of the hundreds of people who have been here before, and the studs and scaffolding and plaster that have crumbled and been torn and lost to time but not to me. The path to the door is bloated under a web of murky roots, a pulsing textile daring me forward, smelling curious prey. The remnants are grime and soot but have been vandalized neon and they scream at me. Choisissez le bonheur, they cry. Soit putain d'heureuse. I'm trying, I tell them, or maybe I'm not but I am calm and stinging and now it is three, Kim says. I am calm but not happy, and it is so acute, and with a blistering palm I pluck a sapling branch and it feels like ten thousand spiders exploding and I am regal and void, parting the trees with fists of ash, lake bubbling molten to welcome me home.
Kaitlyn Gaffney is a North Jersey poet who likes heavy metal and intersectional feminism. She's a Writing major at Rowan University and serves as a poetry editor for Glassworks Magazine. In her rare and precious free time she likes to write plays, watch indie movies, and talk about that one time she studied abroad in Paris.