Reasons to Leave the Path

It might be a storm of fireflies
that turn out not to be fireflies at all
but ten thousand whirling, winged figures
dancing to an inaudible song

It might be the sight of a cottage
nestled deep in a glade of candy trees,
spun-sugar fiddleheads, peppermint pines,
a walkway of chocolate to a gingerbread gate

Or maybe it’s simpler: pale toadstools,
crinkled morels, a trail of blossoms
that leads to more blossoms,
pink to white to yellow to blue

and you can’t help but follow
their scent in the air, the glimpse
of a lusher patch just ahead, a glade
you would like to lie and dream in.

When you resist, when you put your feet
back in the rut that so many others
have worn, you hear the voices calling,
calling, and tell yourself that it’s the birds

even though they all know your name.
You tell yourself other tales
as you walk, of wolves and snares
and bride-eating bridegrooms

of witches with bony hands and deep hearths
but none of them are as true as moonlight
on petals, or the trail of white breadcrumbs
leading you onward toward some dark and open door.

—Jacqueline West