Gaze into the forest long enough, and it will reach for you by the root.
Brandon O’Brien‘s “Papa Bois and the Boy” is the parable you’ve been waiting for, if you’re tired of complacent, hearthside romances, and doily-dotted domestic bliss. Nothing’s wrong with the hearth, or the human home, but the poet opens the kitchen door and tumbles us into the fields. “What?” he asks. “You didn’t notice there was a wilderness, on the edge of your trimmed acre? Take one step, only one, past your boundary. Don’t be afraid of the ensuing growl.”
Oh, and growl this poem does. O’Brien parts bamboo-cathedral canopy to show us a love, and a pair of lovers: Papa Bois, and the boy who startles him, changing both their lives. The poem builds in leaf-brush strokes of intimacy, til soon, we find it teeming in us; it rifles in our pockets, plucks our smartphones from our grasps, says, stay awhile. Breathe in the verdancy. You can always selfie your pleasure, after.
This paradise of queer eros, at once boldly declarative and speculatively antlered, is not immune to the chainsaw-rap of the outside world on its mora door. The world outside of the lovers’ realm announces itself with quarrying machineries, “splitting rocks with their toes / in search of something more golden-black / than freshwater clear.”
The poem is its own sanctuary, but does not forget to be its own warning, too. In a world fringed by risks, encroached upon by the spattering gravel of curtailing freedoms, our best recourse, and truest, is to turn inward. Not turn the other cheek, necessarily: turn to the woods. Reach into the heartsapling of yourself, hold your deciduous husband’s hand, and give them hell, by first giving yourself heaven. Only come out, arboreally-haloed, when you damn well please.
Read “Papa Bois and the Boy” here.
Brandon O’Brien is the poetry editor of FIYAH: Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.
This is the twelfth installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.