My Father Once Tripped Over a Dead Body in the Woods, and While That’s Not Why He Left, It’s Still Completely in Character

My father should never have told me this story, but he once tripped over a dead body in the woods.

The ancient satisfaction of tracking one’s own game, a crystal-clear, pre-sunrise ritual, a communion of brothers and cousins who grew up among the antlers and deer mounts of their uncles and grandfathers, so deep in the winter that every breath is the exhalation of a cigarette, so deep in the woods that one can barely conceive of any humans beyond; one winter when I was in elementary school, my father found a body while hunting in upstate New York. 

My father should never have gone into details, because even now I dream about encountering corpses in unlikely places.

A stranger, a soul, a human being, an old man alone in the world, perhaps a wandering enigma like the prophets of yore, perhaps a wanted criminal, living and dying under the radar and off the grid, most likely an escapee from assisted living; my father stumbled over an obstruction in the snow and fell to the ground below, the deceased suffering the indignity of being trod upon yet again, even now, even in death. The man was not properly dressed for the weather; he had not been dead for very long.

My father should never have nurtured small children in this world, because this experience fazed him not in the least. 

Self-centered, oblivious, with an inclination towards violence and a lack of moral accountability, bumbling along in a blissful state of ignorance; an allegedly seminal moment, the discovery of a literal human being who once held life and breath, who was then just a shell, my father was impervious to the significance of this incident, and that is completely in character.

Shannon Frost Greenstein

3 Questions for Shannon

What was your process for creating this work?

My process for this piece was accidental, starting with a sense memory, evolving into a title, and then the body of the work just spilling into place. I did not set out to unpack childhood trauma or CPTSD; but once a sense memory hits, you're pretty powerless to stop the direction along which your brain sends your thoughts.

What is the significance of the form you chose?

I chose this form because of the manner in which my mind considers the subject of my family and my upbringing. It is uncertain and racing and frantic and cynical; it is vulnerable and angry and sad. It is nonfiction and poetry and satire and a bunch of other things simultaneously, so a stream-of-consciousness-hybrid is what emerged when I tried to write about it.

What is the significance of this work to you?

This work is significant to me because it is cathartic; because it is something I need to process. I'm hoping it's the first step along the path to forgiveness, or at least acceptance. The piece is constructed from remnants of raw lived experience, and I am relieved to have put it in writing, where it will fester less than in the depths of my memories.

Shannon Frost Greenstein (she/her) resides in Philadelphia with her children and soulmate. She is the author of “These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things”, a full-length book of poetry available from Really Serious Literature, and “An Oral History of One Day in Guyana,” a fiction chapbook forthcoming with Bullsh*t Lit. Shannon is a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy and a multi-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Pithead Chapel, Bending Genres, and elsewhere. Follow Shannon at or on Twitter at @ShannonFrostGre.

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