‘real boy’ by Thomas Stewart

this is a true story:

they said
you’re not a real
boy until you cut
the wizard out of the tree,

it’s a question
of which tree:
real boys might pick
oak, birch or beech,
and then boys
that pick alder,
elm or hawthorn
are unreal,

unreal boys hold the axe
and whisper,
oh, cousin of Merlin,
give me some magic

but magic
is not a boy’s language,
here, in the boy’s
toilets or there in the
changing rooms it is
the outstretched branch
welcoming you

to be a real boy

unreal boys, who hide
under their towels
or become black dots
on the rugby pitch

or study the mole
above their nipple,
or the drooping stomach
in the mirror

are the quietly
hungry trees
in the breeze,

if I were a tree
I’d be a white willow
by the bay, a salix
alone and sexless,
I would only know
the touch of my own

as I long to be
a real boy
I know I am already
a tree, made of roots,
standing in the wind,
in solitude, exposed,

displaying my chest,
made of wood,
my bushy hair
and eyebrows falling
past my chipped teeth,

across the scar on my
chin and the leaves
growing from
my hands.
Thomas Stewart is a freelance writer and editor. His work has been featured at Litro Magazine, Cadaverine Magazine, Rockland, Ink, Sweat & Tears and The Stockholm Review, among others. His debut poetry pamphlet is forthcoming from Red Squirrel Press. Twitter @ThomasStewart08