I wasn’t the one who started the fire. I was there, though, in the forest after dark, my unclothed skin sheened with sweat. It was summer. All of us smoking, laughing, drunk on our sudden freedom—no exams, no rules,…
For me, a piece of writing always begins with an image. Perhaps because I am a poet as well as a prose writer, it is not an idea for narrative or dialogue that comes first but, rather, an image that I can’t get out of my mind. In this case, what spurred “Forest Elegy” was the image of a couple embracing, oblivious—at least for a moment—to the woods burning all around them. I wanted to capture that gothic image and, with it, the adolescent speaker’s experience: the hunger, urgency, and ferality that comes with deeply desiring another person for the first time.
Whether it is a fictional or autobiographical piece of writing, I am always invested in keeping a record of becoming—both the wonders involved, and the terror. I hope that “Forest Elegy” captures both, and that the narrative feels both tender and fraught, both pleasurable and risky—that, just like love, it is both beautiful and a little scary.
DESPY BOUTRIS’s writing has been published or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Journal, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, Guest Editor for Palette Poetry and Frontier, and Editor in Chief of The West Review.