Context: A summer day when I was fifteen. We were on vacation and camping on private, isolated, wooded property. Everyone else went into town for several hours, but I stayed behind to explore. What I discovered that day was my sensuality--something I had never truly discovered on my own terms. It was an important part of taking ownership of myself (after being abused ages 6-10).

Some might read these words and think—
That’s just a teenage boy going off to do what teenage boys do—
But when you’ve never felt like “just” a teenage boy before,
It’s no small task to strip away those layers,
The stuff that shrouds boys like us, covers us so completely
That we can’t even find ourselves.
I found an positive part of myself that day,
And that makes it worth sharing.

***Possible trigger warning*** If self-exploration and sensuality trigger you, please do not read.


There was no path.
I made my own way, determined to find a place of my own,
A place to meet myself, see myself through my own eyes.
It was like searching for a stranger as I first entered the trees.
If you’ve been in a beech forest, you know these things:
The slope of the land,
The layers of leaves,
The light hiding and revealing the understory.

Like a divining rod searching for water,
My body pulled my mind with a will of its own,
Deeper into the darkness until bits of sun flicked
Through the leaves and I came to the woodland edge.
That’s when I saw it, the perfect vantage point,
The downhill side of an enormous beech, an outcropping of rock,
Leafy limbs partially obscuring the valley below.
No one could see me and I could see if anyone approached.

This place was for me alone.
What I was about to do was for me alone.
As I took my position, the tree and I were like one,
Extensions of one another, the smooth bark
Covering its muscular trunk pressed against my bare back.
Both rooted in the hillside,
Both wooden, yet utterly alive, and responding
To the slightest breeze and softest rays of the sun.

My mind ceased to exist, but not to protect itself.
It simply allowed my body to make its own decisions.
Had anyone seen, I surely would have appeared dumbfounded,
Like a goon, as my body twisted and stretched and sought out
Shafts of light that penetrated the canopy, and illuminated
Whatever they found in the darkness, like a viewfinder,
Framing and focusing on the planes of my developing terrain,
My newest golden strands and the way my joy glistened.

At the moment, there was deafening silence, my eyes locked
On myself with a selfish intensity I had never before known,
An intensity broken only by the sound of my abandon
Landing on the coppery leaves at my feet, like an applause.
With exhaustion—grateful exhaustion—shaking legs gave way
And I sank to my haunches,
Skin against bark and each hand at a mossy root,
Where I admired the pearls of my reverie.
That is truly inspiring and beautiful. Not triggering at all. Such an important discovery. You use wonderful, indirect language. And yet it's very clear what you are describing. Great poem.


Thanks for the response. I was hoping at least one person here might see something helpful or hopeful in the poem. The process of writing it really helped me unpack the memory and better understand its personal significance. It has taken many years for me to understand that my jaunt in the woods that day was actually an early effort to heal.

What I remember the most was how intent I seemed to be on finding those shafts of light and seeing how they hit my body. That emphasis makes some sense when you consider how my primary abuser always took polaroid pictures of me and made me look at them and describe what they showed. I became so accustomed to seeing myself...but only through his eyes. The day in the woods, with the help of those rays of light, I began to see myself without his mark tainting the view.
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as I shared Alex I think your poem is courageous and powerful in it's expression. The things that speak to us so powerfully can be so similar or so different. This I think is probably something that many share. and yet the experience still speaks differently to all


The things that speak to us so powerfully can be so similar or so different. This I think is probably something that many share. and yet the experience still speaks differently to all

I didn't intend to ignore this comment, just wanted to mull it over and then never got back around to it. Many of us, no doubt, have a complicated relationship with our own bodies and the concept of finding pleasure (guilt-free) in them. Writing this poem and posting it six weeks ago was a significant shift for me. At the time it felt very risky posting it, but perhaps it's what I needed. I'm trying to write a little each day now as a way to find my voice. I hope we can all feel comfortable expressing ourselves here without shame.


Amazing and beautiful. Thanks for your courage and sharing. Many of us have a complicated relationship with shame and trying to find our path to divorce ourselves from that is a very important step that some of us continue to work on.
In a perfect world each of us should have had experiences like this be one of our first, thanks for the reminder that we can each claim our own moment of the discovery of our sensuality and to re-claim that.



@Sawyer49 Thanks for the kind words. And yes, I agree, we can claim and re-claim that relationship with ourselves in ways that belong only to us.