Fritz Ward: Our Favorite Hauntings

Fritz Ward: Our Favorite Hauntings

If a Red Tongue in the White Woods


If the forest says cemetery,

hereditary, wild

cherry. Each mouth

is a mercenary, a what-if

machine. If spring arrives

and arrives and we survive,

how much happiness

will the sting bring

back? If I suck the venom

from your jubilee.

How much of you

is the antidote

for me? Let’s skip the hearts

and break each other’s fingers

like twigs, then ring

what’s broken each year,

counting like trees.

If-and-when we marry,

let it be at the edge of the woods

with a handful of our favorite

hauntings, the oaks tented

with gypsy moths, our feet bare

and dirty as our lives.

If we must and maybe

and never make promises

or babies. If you’ll stand

with me on the fallen elm

listening for the ghost locust

hatching underground,

I’ll practice the deep breathing

that keeps my suicide

in its nest of tinder.

What if we oh-god-


till we start believing?

Will the wild dogs

of our bodies

finally be more

than our howlings?

Or are we the gods

we never dreamed of?

God help us. But fuck

figuring it out.

Let’s just start running.

Run with me

down to the river,

where we’ll sink

our fingers into the soft silt

of everything we’re about

to become. It won’t solve

a god-damn thing,

but we’ll make a memory

of the mud and sunlight.

And if you trust me

after all that, after all this,

then I’ll be your deer

at the edge of the woods

surrendering my tongue

to the saltlick of your skin.

Fritz Ward is the author of Tsunami Diorama (The Word Works, 2017) and the chapbook Doppelganged (Blue Hour Press, 2011). The recipient of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, his poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Best New Poets, The Adroit Journal, BOAAT, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. He works at Swarthmore College and lives just outside of Philadelphia.