Asiyah Arastu

I follow my grandfather into
the woods beyond
the rusted gate, my eyes trained
on his muffled outline.
He plods along, steady
and deliberate, and he
motions for me to step
where he steps, to
speak softly, if at all.
Day-old deer tracks dot the snow.

during these forays, he is
careful not to trample
the tufts of yellowed grass and
snarls of blood-red briars
in his path. Even when
a bramble lashes his face,
he gently parts the thorny curtain
so I can pass safely. 

His boots stamp duplicates
of the shoe treads that already
mark the compressed snow ahead of him and
attest to the long afternoons he has spent
stalking these traces. 

He knows
the tangled thickets where the
deer browse; the clearings among
the reeds where they sleep; the
seasonal ponds that serve as
their watering holes. Yet,
for all his meticulous reconstructions of
their movements in the shadows,
the flesh-and-blood deer continue
to elude him. 

We come to a sudden halt, and
he points with pride at his woodsy
perch atop the tangled mass
of an uprooted oak. He helps
me hoist myself up,
warns me of the furrows that are
slick with moisture, and
guides me to the footholds that will
support my weight. 

For a moment, we both shiver
with the thrill of the
frozen marsh. Then,
my grandfather’s gaze falls
on a ridge of clam-shaped mushrooms, protruding
from the trunk,
and his eyes light up.

Instead of a rack of antlers,
the trophy we bear home
is the magnificent mushroom
I helped him chisel away
from the bark.

Asiyah Arastu is a second-year student in Weinberg hoping to major in Creative Writing and MENA Studies and minor in Arabic. She serves as a content editor for for Al Bayan magazine and is member of Hobart House. She also plays Ultimate Frisbee with Northwestern’s women’s frisbee team and likes to camp at National Parks with her family. In her free time, she likes watching Turkish and British period dramas, going on long walks while listening to audiobooks, and agonizing over not being productive enough as a so-called creative writer.