Boy at Edge of Woods

I notice the mechanical descriptions of sex in this piece, the procedural description of finishing up their business. Jones says, “After his gasp and god damn, after his zipper closes its teeth, his tongue leaves its shadows” (8) — the gasp and dialogue insinuate that the speaker’s partner has reached orgasm, and the rest of the excerpt describes him zipping up his pants and ending their physical contact. As much as these lines illustrate the motions of finishing intercourse, they also allude to the sense of abandonment in the lines that follow. The partner’s “tongue leaves its shadows,” and proceeds to leave the speaker “alone to pick pine needles from my hair, to brush brown leaves off my shirt as blades of light hang from the trees” (8). Again, these lines are somewhat just describing the procedure of cleaning oneself up after sex, but they are also profoundly lonely. It feels as though this speaker being left alone to clean themself up is part of their routine, but the details in the following lines add much more weight to the idea of someone picking the pine needles out of their hair and brushing the leaves off of their shirt after a quickie in the woods. Jones says, “as I relearn my legs, mud-stained knees, and walk back to my burning house” (8). Relearning one’s legs adds significant gravity to this piece in the sense of this phrase being a double entendre — orgasm is a physical release of tension, in which one might be so wrapped up in pleasure that they forget their bodies. At the same time, having to “relearn (their) legs” implies forgetting the semantic processes of standing, walking, moving, something they would otherwise be able to do. This could indicate that this experience was so important to the speaker that it overrode their basic functional mechanisms. This gravity — the loneliness/abandonment, the seemingly procedural nature of the act contrasted with subtle cues to how significant it is — builds up to that last line, in which the speaker must “walk back to (their) burning house.” A house on fire alludes to the consequences of their actions, as houses tend to represent family or stability and fire is pretty synonymous with being an agent of destruction. Because Saeed Jones is a Black, gay author and I have read the other poems in Prelude to Bruise, I can deduce that his family condemned homosexuality. Every queer experience Jones engaged in brought both immense connection to his true self and overwhelming shame in the face of his family. I think “Boy at Edge of Woods” speaks directly to Jones’ plight throughout all of the works in Prelude to Bruise, and that this poem magnifies some of the aspects of wanting that can make human connection feel so lonely.

2 thoughts on “Boy at Edge of Woods”

  1. The sort of profound loneliness described in this text is one that I have seen as a through line in a lot of Jones’ other poems, including the other poem mentioned here “Prelude to Bruise” and also the poem “Drag”. Also in all three of these poems Jones’ voice is deeply personal yet somewhat removed which is an interesting combination. The subject matter of his poems are sometimes intensely intimate but the way in which he speaks about them is somewhat detached.

  2. I think you made a great job with this post, you made me think about elements of this short but powerful poem that I did not notice at first. For example, the notion of “walk back to (their) burning house” and the fact that you mentioned that their family probably condemned homosexuality, it is perfectly appreciable in this line. I could not help think about the passage we read in “Growing Up Gay/ Growing Up Lesbian” when Jesse G. Monteagudo talks about what happened when his own parents, who also condemned sexuality, discovered his sexual preferences: “Apparently they thought that my reputation (and theirs) would be safer if I remained under parental supervision” (162). When Jones alludes to their burning house, creates the same feeling of being under parental “arrest”, a house that is not a house because the ones that are supposed to love you do not accept you as you are.

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