Finding the Branch

The whip wasn’t always visible
in their hands, it was up in the boughs
of the fir or the beech, waiting, like
a prized harvest to be imagined. They
made it so, invented the game of pick
your punishment — find a branch
suitable for your own mischief. I’d
measure a thick, fresh one, burly,
like a man’s heavy, hairy hand. Thickness,
plasticity mattered — it couldn’t break
in the midst of ass-bare point-making.
Sometimes the coward in me would
run around our small kitchen table,
fists of adrenaline punting me forward.
Sometimes the future in me would yell out
I’d never do this to my children. But
always, I’d take my time, to sit
at the foot of my arboreal advisor,
staring up at the sunlight breaking
through its many arms, a soft bosom.
Then, in me, something else, a wilder
animal, would rest its head on
nothingness and find comfort in
the torment: a hate welling up with thanks.