From Town to Forest

created for the Crowdfunding Creative Jam

CN: domestic violence, sexual assault


“From Town to Forest”
Alex Conall

They say
the only ones who
may touch unicorns
may stroke their manes
offer carrots
ride them

are the maidens

the young women who
have never known
the sexual touch of men.

They say
when Anne weds Edward
that it’s a pity
Anne cannot
go into the forest
and collect the tail hairs
of unicorns
to spin
and weave
and sew
as she has done before.

They say
when Anne walks the town
face bruised
they say


Anne collects her
gather basket
sewing basket
picnic basket
two spare clothing sets
so she and little Lizzie
(Edward’s daughter)
will have more
than what they wear
when they come to that town
where Anne’s grandmother lives.

Lizzie carries carefully
Anne’s sewing basket
in one steady little hand
and clings to Mama’s skirt.

Anne and Lizzie reach the forest
where Anne hopes a unicorn
will come to meet her daughter.

This unicorn
a splendid golden creature
nudges Lizzie’s ear
with her horselike nose
and Lizzie takes an apple
from the picnic basket
and holds it up.

This unicorn
takes the fruit
tastes the fruit
looks when it is gone
pointedly at Anne
and at the picnic basket.

Anne tosses over
a second red-gold apple.

The unicorn steps closer.
Anne has known a man
even were it not in pleasure
and dares not approach.


The thought strikes her as church bells.

She is not his wife,
though once she was.
She is not his victim,
though once she was.
She is not his plaything,
and will not be again.

Anne takes two steps closer
and plucks the apple from the ground
and holds it out.

The unicorn takes it from her hand
and consents that Anne
lift Lizzie and herself
onto her golden back

and flee

before Edward can think
to search the forest for them.

And if he comes,
thinks Anne,
what of it?
Sharp horns
forceful hooves
lions’ hearts
have unicorns.

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