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Battle Forest

                                    Kerri French

It was the year the rain
came early, the town’s last train
arriving to clouds sunk like anchors,
wind gripping the neighborhood
as the trees began to fall.
Our bodies were changing
and the roads remained blocked,
the police circling the streets faster
than we could count days after
the boy at school rode off on a bicycle
and was never found.
For weeks we sat in class
with our heads down, our teacher
unwilling to remove
the nametag from his desk.
At home our parents watched
the news on mute, pulled
the straps of our helmets tighter.
We stayed by the creek that summer,
wading knee-deep until the leeches
clung to our ankles.
The braver boys stripped
from their clothes and jumped
backwards from the bank,
each girl pretending not to look.

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