A Day in the Forest

a poem by Urmila Mahajan

I chanced to wander into a wood
One dazzling sunny day
Long leafy strands, linked joined hands
I knew I’d lost my way.

Curling creepers surged and swayed
Confused me as I ran
Like facts that gang together and hang
A truthful stainless man.

At long last out of breath, I slowed
And paused to glance around
It was a forest dense, most intense
With magical sights and sounds.

I was dwarfed by the singular massive size
Of all that I happened to pass
Gnarled ancient trees groaned in the breeze
Brilliant blossoms lay strewn on the grass.

I spied a glittering truculent dragon
Whose honeyed eyes belied
The non-stop spate of acidic hate
Oozing like lava from inside.

It never spared a soul in sight
Roused at a touch it fumed
Belching, blowing, flames a-flowing
In lonely rage it was consumed.

Here and there with a clumsy air
Passed an enormous ugly toad
Willing to work, not one to shirk
Never shrugging off its load.

I met a pious praying mantis
Selfish to the core
Spoke at length with practiced strength
Of the hardships that it bore.

Going by its winding tale
It led a saintly life
Took rigorous care of its own affairs
Having left its home and wife.

The air grew thick with butterflies
Gaudy glamorous things
To mask an empty head, flaunted instead
Pretty painted wings.

I shared my midday meal with a mouse
Bespectacled and shy
That buried its head in a book it read
With a philosophical eye.
A flamboyant silky snake waylaid me
Smoothly asked me to be its guest
Despite all I’d heard, took it at his word
Followed it meekly to its nest.

It was there it bared its fangs at me
Rattled the sound of death
Down to my toes, I almost froze
Stumbled out of the trap it had set.

The slanting rays of the evening sun
In the forest seemed far dimmer
When I caught sight in the fading light
Of purplish water all a-shimmer.

Groups of motley creatures drank
While others struggled and vied
For their share, no hostility there
Lion and deer side by side.

To slake my thirst I drank too deep
Of the fiery stuff in haste
It made me shout, they all cried out
“You must acquire its taste!”

I made a desperate bid to find my way
Grew increasingly unhappy
For at the fall of night not a ray of light
Would break through the solid canopy.

The inky forest hushed and cool
Seemingly served to invite
Millions of wings, creeping crawling things
The sentinels of the night.

Hunched in the dark, away from home
Not a soul to heed my cries
My silent prayer was heard by a hare
That appeared with the kindest eyes.

Out berry picking for its hungry horde
It had failed to observe the shadows
It urged me to stay till the break of day
At the warren in the near-by meadow.

Its eyes beamed bright in the bottomless dark
I followed child-like obediently
The forest appeared to have graciously cleared
As it hopped forth with great dignity.

In the warm burrow, cheered by her babes
I was fed well; needless to say
And finally led to a fragrant bed
Made up of sweet-smelling hay.

To wake up next morning in my own room
Nothing surprised me more
Those surreal creatures, vivid blooms and creepers
I had surely been there before.