“American Arcana: That Lone Harpy of Appalachia” by Kate Shannon

around these parts, you’d hear about trail angels, their wings spread between those parched white blazes. offering plenty and good.
take your rest beneath their wings, nothing can touch you there, you’d hear.

you’d hear, too, about all the ways you can be saved in the old outdoors. you, your tent, and so much god. 
how magic these woods are, creating something from nothing. 

you’d hear about all the ponies in the highlands, free things they are.

free thing you are, your American feet bloody with it. so, when you walk these long trails, remember that you were free to do anything else. 

remember that the existence of the trail angel necessitates the existence of the trail fiend.
you might be uncomfortable with that.
you might hear that men think they have conquered this land: 
o you can follow white blazes marking path like heavenly braziers in your American heaven 
all the way north. 
all the way north? you’d ask. following paint? yes, indeed. 
but I would tell you how cheap American heaven invites easy sabotage, 
making new paths to certain death and biting flies.

never mind that, I’d say, how magic you must be, I’d tell you
and you’d smile, ego holstered lazily on the setting sun’s thick hips. 

and you’d hear that men think they have conquered this land. 

when at first you take a bite, they don’t think much. 
the face beyond the trees, it wasn’t nothing, I’d tell you. 
you don’t think much. 
but piece by piece, their minds wander like hens let out to pasture come spring, 
stepping all over the neighbor’s flowers, their feet trembling under their empty bellies.
the good face beyond the bare trees
the red breath on the back of your thick neck
the voice outside your tent like your mother’s
your fiberglass-dry throat
the place you left your boots the way you forgot your boots the bare feet bloody in the dirt

when you are all but lost, 
I descend. when you see my wide arms spread, you could mistake them for wings.

Kate Shannon is a student, editor, and poet who currently lives in the strange mountains of Upstate NY, where she lives with her partner and too many dark secrets. She writes speculative-ish poetry and fiction and hopes to not be eaten by one of her hideous creations. Her publication history includes Abandon Magazine, The Metaworker, The Mithila Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, among others.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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