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Boy in the Forest Between Living and Leaving

—That time—

when boys who were down said, “down,” & dressed

in such a way that their out-of-school clothes resembled

their night- &-day clothes & play clothes & on-the-court

or on-the-field clothes

those don’t-wanna-be-like-them clothes

—that time—

one boy walked alongside the dark in his dark

knee-length shorts & bulb-bright shirt that inflated

& deflated whenever the wind entered or exited the sleeves

as if to say when puffed, This is the man he will become, &

when shrunken, But he is only on the verge now,

& it appeared as if a narrow flame

were flaring & flickering & walking or floating alongside

a long stretch of road

there were no street signs or landmarks

just the dark stretching

away from itself & the boy walking off walking away

rather than toward anyone or anything

though maybe that’s the way it felt when one watched another

walking from a distance, the boy kept moving

& each time it seemed as though he might stop to check

if he were headed in the right direction or wipe his hands on his shirt

or listen for rickety trucks or long rope troubles that wickedly come

the boy never stopped

not even to pull

his shoestrings tighter

which wouldn’t have mattered

because he wore no shoes or socks

& the patch of trees ahead outblacked the sky

& announced themselves & bent & swore we are safe trees

for they knew their branches had been defiled & low-hanging & long-

broken & eased into

the earth the trees were weary from what they had seen

from how they had been used & could not account for the crimes

of men who had not yet atoned—

so they bent their leaf-thick heads & revealed a new path for the boy

that he might make his way to live alongside long-living boys

& just like that

the boy was in a forest

& the road disappeared behind him

& the boy walked further toward the shelter

of more trees away from the doomed

& damned & hunted & heckled & haunted & hounded & slaughtered

& drowned &

weighted at the river bottom

the boy outflamed the flame

he was becoming

other boys alongside other boys

he appeared to be so much & so many

he swore to sequoia & redwood, “I will not burn you,”

& it was true he would not raze

though the boy had brightened

the lives of the ones he loved & left

through a hole in his chest

& he walked right through

& upward grew

& knew he could walk

the length of floridatexasmissouriohionewyorkcalifornia & back again

one day

soon is now son rise up singing one day soon is now son rise up singing one day soon son

is now son rise up singing one day soon is today son rise up swinging one day soon is now

son rise up swinging one day soon is now son rise is today son rise up swinging

& swinging he could hear singing on the other side though he knew he was gone

from You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for LoveFind more by Yona Harvey at the library

Copyright © 2020 Yona Harvey
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Poems Yona Harvey

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.