The Elder Tree Woman by Suz Winspear

The Elder Tree Woman

As we went into the woods, he said
that there was nothing to be afraid of,
that the story the children tell
of the old woman with the elder-branch staff
was simply that, a story.
He said her sharp teeth wouldn’t bite.
He said her sharp nails wouldn’t scratch.
There was nothing for a sweet young girl to fear
within the woods, or so he said.

I smiled at him
and let him lead me in.
I knew I had nothing to fear.

Even as the shadow-branches
reached out towards him,
he did not understand
that things in the woods are never as they seem,
that the girl who dances light as the sky
on day-bright meadows in the trivial sunshine
takes on her true form
in the shade of the elder-tree.

Even as my roots rose up
to drain his body of the warm and the red,
he did not understand.
And as my branches curled down with twigs like nails
to scratch at his white flower skin
gouging out the dark sweet fruit of flesh,
he still begged me to run and save myself,
thinking still that I was the one to be protected.

Only in those last moments
as the tips of my roots
drew out his senses and his thoughts
and his life scattered like ashes
did he hear my laugh.
He understood then,
just as his scream became a sigh
a dying breeze to ruffle
the leaves of the elder tree.


Suz Winspear writes and performs poetry and gothic tales. Her first poetry collection, I do not need a New Obsession , was published in 2013. She lives in a disused church, has a day-job in a Victorian museum, spends a lot of time sitting in the dark, cultivating strange ideas, and is currently writing a novel. She doesn’t see daylight very often.

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