The sun was setting, sinking down,
While we ambled, slow and proud
Into the woods beyond the town
Smoothly as the path allowed,
The path into the woods.
‘Neath the tangled branches strolling,
Walked my mount with shoulders rolling,
Stone outcrops rung shod hooves tolling,
Tolling in the woods.
Under the cloak of growing gloom
My mount grows restless, spurs his pace
Through the trees that lurk and loom,
Cast inky streaks across my face,
Onwards through the wood.
“A night-time ride will clear my head.”
I spoke lightly, no trace of dread,
Travelled betwixt conceit instead,
Deeper into the woods.
On trotting toes my mount does neigh,
A piercing cry that cuts the peace,
Bewildered by the sudden bray,
I plead my mount to quickly cease,
Pleading in the woods.
No answer weaves between the trees,
That whisper secrets to the breeze,
That swallow us with evil ease,
Deeper into the woods.
This mount is wily, green and young,
Lithe neck arched high and proud,
Uneasy now I click my tongue
Blue lips won’t speak my fear aloud
Frightened in the woods.
It swings its head, it screams its call,
I grip the reins to stop my fall
Sweat-slick legs stand towering tall,
Wild in the woods.
It slams back down with rattling force
Hooves churning dirt and gouging deep,
With knuckles white we run off-course
As my heart pounds to the beat
Thundering through the woods.
My blood is ice, leaves whip my skin
I fear my mount will break a shin
The night is thick and black as sin
Deeper in the woods.
Strong chisel teeth clack ‘gainst the bit,
Red-rimmed and gaping nostrils flare,
Within round eye belie dark wit,
That fills my soul with bleak despair,
Despaired within the woods.
Through stiff fingers sleek reins slip,
Steel jangles against teeth that rip,
I feel hot sweat begin to drip,
Deep within the woods.
Its eyes cut through the dead of night,
Rough breath rattles within its throat,
I ache, I bleed, I quake with fright,
Hot blood spatters its steaming coat
A demon within the woods.
I do not make it to my home
I met my end in jaws that foam,
My body broken in the loam,
Forever in the woods.
My name is Aiden Blyton (he/him) and I am a third year Creative Writing major with an interest in the intersection between visual art and writing. I write poetry and short stories, often interacting with themes of queer identity, nature, and gothic horror. For this year’s Arts Festival, I have prepared a selection of poems written over my university career, and am co-hosting a poetry workshop in hopes of sharing my love of the form. I have struggled to find inspiration in Melbourne’s lockdowns, and have experienced a shift of focus from writing to visual art. I have used this time to develop my portfolio, which I will continue to use to seek a tattoo apprenticeship following the end of lockdown. The pandemic has encouraged me to be kinder to myself and my work, and to ensure above all, that writing is something to be enjoyed.