by folding him like a sweater: cut off legs, bend arms back into the pocket between his shoulder blades, and cut off his head. He never needed anything
other than his hands; skin holds other molecules—his father’s butchered cow, lichen on the wall of a bear cave, a vulture standing in another vulture’s chest.
Our hands rub the appropriate spices over his frame. We smear jasmine for a car crash, we apply rosemary for heart disease, we sprinkle cumin because in this future
there is a wall. On your side he writes this poem. On our side the world is split seven billion times. On our side, we stretch the spiced skin of his hands into a continent.
On our side, life forms find shelter on his knuckles, shelter from the scars we leave behind: a burn from the stove, dog bite, motorcycle crash.
On your side, he lets his fingernails grow because a hoof and a talon and a claw can choose pain.
On our side, there is no air between a body and whatever touches a body.
A hurricane flooded the forest behind the barn. At night, twenty inches of stagnant water deepen into a black lake— the possibility of something holding its breath.
I sneak out; rain boots, a jacket, my first pocket knife. The new gravity of muddy water forces me into slow motion—mosquitoes hovering around their eggs, tree bark pruning in the soil soup.
My left boot sinks too far in; stuck, barefoot now. The sludge reacts to my skin—wet dirt glowing under my souls, hardening into a mouth. The sunken halo’s tongue slurps at my toenails and murmurs through bubbles:
no one owns me…the fence is floating… …fertilizer…ruined…trees…outlive you…
I leave behind the dirt’s smiles instead of footprints. In the barn, I look down at my licked-clean feet; the word PROPERTY scratched into my heel with peat teeth.
In the dark, no one knows I’m missing; Dad sleeps in his bed, his room, his house, on the dry ground, on the roots of trees no one planted.
If it weren’t for the headlights, the trees would become hands:
midnight fingers curling onto the highway: breaking the car window: raking my chest with sign language; “This is what you want.”
I straddle the left lane, grooved shoulder shaking tears down my face: I want
options again: I have been driving the old route between Mom’s house and Dad’s house: his old convertible
had options: Wind, rain, bugs, litter from an overhanging bridge.
I roll down the windows and turn my lights off: tree branches
choke me: trash in the cup-holder becomes a gag in my mouth: a thousand moths eat my clothes and beat their wings into a language I want to believe:
“You don’t know what death is, pain means your blood is hot and everyone’s blood is hot forever.”