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.