There’s a pull to this place,
To the wide, sweeping desert,
peppered with sagebrush and dusted with reptiles.
But the real siren's call comes from the trees.
The fallen trees, made rainbow crystal by chance and time.
Let’s be honest, how is that
The signs say
Please do NOT take the petrified rocks.
Of course not.
This is not a place to be taken from.
It’s a place to sacrifice.
In which to leave snakeskin and sighs,
To bake under the hot sun
Until some transformation has taken place,
Grapes squashed and squeezed into wine,
An unforgiving cacophony of creation.
That’s important, sometimes.
With chance and magic,
When mighty things fall,
Decay made beautiful
By the whims of nature.
Who could resist?
Fingers in cold earth
Roots digging in deep.
Roses deserve more credit than they get,
A burst of life, rising up, fighting gravity
And ending in a beacon of beauty.
Demeter guides my hands as I garden,
As earth flows around me
And spells whirl into petals.
What a triumph it is, to grow.
To rise up,
The wealth of mint gone mad, cascading over everything,
Or the memory of rosemary, tough little spikes fighting against frost.
Life is power,
It is the hum of the universe,
A crescendo of enchantment
That connects and binds.
An unending chain
Since the Greeks settled at Delphi.
My hands cramp as night falls,
And a breeze wriggles down my neck.
I should go inside, I know.
But I think I want just a little part of me to rise up,
Like my rose,
Gasping into the unknown.
It’s where I found Her, after all.
I have much to thank Demeter for.
That Time in the Woods
When we walked through the woods,
The moon’s pull was far too strong,
Lifting me above the crunch of the leaves
Next to you.
At least that’s how it felt.
After months apart
We matched our step together
And spoke the same words in unison,
Giggling soft, like stars flickering behind clouds.
The woods have a magic like that,
They allow you to let go of everything holding you down,
To dodge between the branches and saunter across the logs,
As if some rolling mist,
Happy to traverse a wild landscape,
To go into that rocky unknown.
Unconcerned with the easy path
Interested only in the beautiful.
Holly Payne-Strange (she/her) is a novelist, poet and podcast creator. Her writing has been lauded by USA Today, LA weekly and The New York Times. Her next novel, All Of Us Alone, will be a recommended read for Women Writers, Women’s Books in December 2023. She’s had her poetry published by various groups including Door Is A Jar magazine, In Parenthesis, Quail Bell Magazine, and will soon be featured in Academy Heart, among others. She would like to thank her wife for all her support.