"if still forest (winter)", Written by Pratyusha and illustrated by Thai Hoang

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

Credits: Story

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

Explore more Willowherb content at:

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
London Borough of Culture
The creativity and history at the heart of Waltham Forest's local community
View theme
Google apps