Hamelin / We Are Not Sent into the Woods but Go Willingly / Monozygotic

by Jo Gatford


The melody draws them out like woodlice from a rotten log. A puppet-strung dance – lock-limbed and rictus-smiled – all the way to the river. 

When help finally arrives, they find the mothers raking the bare ground with their nails; the fathers standing statue, faces pressed to the walls. 

Why didn’t you hold onto them? Tie them down? Why didn’t you lock the doors? Why didn’t you follow break his pipe, his fingers, his neck? 

But out under the indifferent sky, consequence is heavier than silence. They shut themselves back inside the church and pray to return to a time of rats.


We Are Not Sent into the Woods but Go Willingly  

The aspen have eyes. They watch us as we pass but say nothing. We fill the knots with chalk so they glow when the sun no longer reaches through the canopy – not to lead us home, but to make sure we don’t turn back.

It is gloaming here and soon the woods will close in behind us, a tangle of awkward embraces, the heavy scent of an open grave. The trees won’t tell, no matter who follows after. 

We pick a path that leaves no trace, bare feet on broken leaves, and walk until morning.



In the womb, we wrestled; born with fists clenched around one another’s cords. I could have eaten you, or you me – cuckooed one another out of existence – but we are better together, even at war; the only adversary worth fighting.

We laugh when they try to separate us because I could find you in a snowstorm by scent alone; you know the back of my hand as well as your own; and there’s no need for a trail when remnants still float in our blood – magnets in the air, tethering me to you – a compass made flesh.

Jo Gatford writes flash disguised as poetry, poetry disguised as flash, and sometimes things that are even longer than a page. Her work has most recently been published in Molotov Cocktail, The Forge, trampset, Pithead Chapel and SmokeLong Quarterly. She is the co-founder of @writers_hq and occasionally tweets about weird 17th-century mermaid tiles at @jmgatford. She wants to live on your bookshelf.