I have a lifetime love-fear relationship with woods.
Not forests, mind you: forests are grand places, noble, large, pristine or close to it. Woods are their scruffier cousins. They are usually found at the edges of developed neighborhoods, or along creeks or ravines that defy easy suburban development, and they’re lined with crisscrossing trails made by kids and adults looking to hide things, or do things, or be things that don’t belong under the bright sunlight of fields and lawns and parks. Because of this, woods are often heavily littered with construction scrap, broken bottles, abandoned vehicles, used condoms, dumped appliances, and other unsavory trash. They’re menacing, but they’re fascinating.
When I was in elementary school, I spent most of my free time in the woods with my friends. We built forts, we dammed creeks, we smoked our first cigarettes, we wondered about the condoms and underwear we found, we innocently took a bong that we found home because we didn’t know what it was. We knew that adults didn’t belong in the woods: when you saw anyone over about 13 years old, you knew it was best to keep quiet, hide or beat a hasty retreat. Something bad was going to happen if you ran into an adult you didn’t know in the woods.
That’s probably part of the deep psychoanalytical root of my poem “The Devil’s In the Woods Again” (number two in this chapbook collection), along with the fact that my grandfather really did believe that he ran into the devil every now and again in the woods behind the Black Shed on our property in South Carolina. At bottom line for a kid, it seemed that whatever unexpected thing or person you met in the woods, it was probably gonna be bad, but you were gonna go back the next day anyway, just for the thrill that those encounters engendered.
Like riding a roller coaster, only without the safety bar, and with a potential psychopath in the car next to you . . .