If Still Forest (2019) by Thai HoangOriginal Source: Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture
Writing created by Pratyusha and inspired by the seasons, for a special edition of the Willowherb Review, as part of Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.
Illustrated by Thai Hoang
making less of the body / worlding: the swallowing of green light
the thin fog of a season’s turn / pungent fragrance in Epping, nineteen
translation as a means for survival / terrestrial seeking what-has-been
fleshy fibres separating skin / roots of blood-current
veins / moss glimpsed through protective barriers, your thin skin
masquerading parchment / felled branch landing into a blueprint
new reckonings through the smell of birch / deodar-song or.
brief loss, trying not to count / mapping leaves & dull brown
collateral damage we could never unsee / overhead, turned down
some forests remind you of other ones / existing in myth
& song / remember the thirteen-year-exile that the five brothers lived
& two women / hidden & lacquer-painted, switched & mimicked
it was a kind of healing perhaps to live other lives / shadowy endurance
I imagine tropical summers yellow & hot / pouring through oak and pine
sap remembers everything / vernalisation of negations & shrines
we could (n)ever? / think corporeal. paddle downforest
luminescent glimmer of presence / cool lungs & a wren singing
collapse into the familiarity of hand-holding / my dear it is composing
The reference to the ‘five brothers and two women’ is an allusion to the story of the Pandavas, from the Mahabharata (a Sanskrit epic poem). These allusions are to various events that occur in the tale, such as when the Pandavas escape a lacquer-painted (and thus highly flammable) palace. ‘Switched and mimicked’ alludes to one of the brothers cross-dressing during a year in exile.
Pratyusha is an Indo-Swiss postgraduate student based in London. Her pamphlet, Night Waters, was published by Zarf Poetry in 2018. She co-edits amberflora, an eco/world poetry zine, at
Thai Hoang is a creative with 7 years of experience in Digital Product Design. In his spare time, he enjoys taking pencil to paper and illustrating whatever has taken his interest at that moment.
It's been a great pleasure to go back to his roots in Fine Arts and be chosen for his personal interpretation of Pratyusha's 'if still forest' for Willowherb x Waltham Forest x Google Arts & Culture
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