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Afternoon in the Woods

by Despy Boutris


What I love about the woods

is that you can scream

and no one will come. Some days 

sound’s the only way pain can flee 

the body. I want to be grown

of wildflowers, but I’m all thorn. Years ago, 

my father came home alone from a bike ride, 

his face a broken window strangled

by vines. He held out his arms and I ran

into forest, headed for the tree 

I’d made a home of. At the hospital, 

my mother’s body plum-colored, her face 

all stitches and bruise. My father 

thumbing the blood on her brow. I’m so sorry.

I didn’t see you. How do we bear 

even the tenderest touch, knowing 

what we know: the potential for disaster.

Wind, rustling leaves. Fading footsteps.

Mangled bicycles. Flutter of wings, 

then birdcall. I lark. I longing. I clench 

handfuls of dirt. There’s no name for the scent

of these fallen leaves, hot under the sun.

And how dare my body want

another body, heat, a hand in mine. This town 

of black ice, half-burned trees, cracked 

lips and nosebleeds. Once, I let tears fall

and someone hovered over me, her lips 

on my cheek, mouth blurred 

with my salt. I was wanted, then—touched

like a plucked plum. Now, I clutch

handfuls of dirt, and a thorn pricks my pinky.

How easily the body breaks,

blood such a striking color. 

Despy Boutris's (she/her) work has been published or is forthcoming in Guernica, Copper Nickel, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, AGNI, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. Currently, she lives in California and serves as Editor-in-Chief of The West Review. Follow her on Instagram @dbouts.

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