Don’t Whistle in the Woods

Sydney Simpson

“When you go out to play,
don’t whistle in the woods,”

And for a very long time, I never questioned her on it.

After all, if you wanna be a good boy,
you always gotta listen to your mama
because she knows a lot more than you do.

She knows how to tie your shoes and iron your shirts,
grow anything you could imagine in her garden,
fry the chicken until it’s the perfect crispiness,
and answer all of the millions of your stupid questions.

Mamas know what’s right and what’s best,
so I never questioned her about much of anything—
especially when her voice would get all serious
like it did when she’d warn me about the woods.

I could never play too rough or scream too loud while I was out there,
and I was never allowed to leave my toys in the woods.
She always used to say the woods was like a living, breathing creature,
and to never abuse its generosity.

Mama always made me carry my compass while I was playing out there
just in case I’d get lost.
One day I couldn’t find my compass, so she wouldn’t let me outside.

“I’ve never gotten lost before, Mama!” I protested.
“I know these woods like the back of my hand—can’t I go play?”

She grabbed my arm and pulled me closer, staring at me with her emerald eyes.

“You don’t know nothin.”
Those there woods can switch up on you in a second,
and suddenly you won’t know your left from your right
or your mouth from your own asshole!”

“What are you talkin’ about, Mama?”

She let go of my arm and turned away

“You just don’t know what’s out there, boy.
You don’t know nothin’ about it.

“Then tell me, Mama! Why do I need a compass? Why can’t I whistle out there?”

“If you don’t take your compass, the woods can change up on you
and then you won’t be able to find your way home—”

She paused and emitted a large gulp from her throat.

“And if you whistle in the woods,
something might just answer.”