The Father was cutting wood in the yard. He’d been crying
for hours. A few times, the Sister came out,
and stood with her head tilted to the side.
She said, It’s alright, life really isn’t so bad, when you think about it,
and Don’t worry, the winds are coming, the clouds are going away,
but he didn’t say anything back. He was still crying.
She kneeled down, a few feet away, and wrapped her hands
around the neck of a bird. The bird folded into
itself. It made a soft noise, like paper shifting on
the wind. With careful motions,
she shut both of its eyes. It’s alright, she whispered.
Everything is the same as it’s always been. It won’t get dark until you decide it will.
She walked away. There was still an imprint
of her body on the grass.
The Brother was sitting inside a tree, staring at the bark.
He held both hands to his chest;
he muttered softly under
his breath, biting his lips occasionally,
when the words were
The Sister was waiting for him outside—
she pulled a leaf from the branches, and tore it
in half. She tossed the leaf into the air
and it fell off the edge
of the world.
Later, the Brother and Sister were sitting in a field.
She had peeled him
from inside the tree.
He said, You should have left me there. I was happy, like that.
I liked the way the shadows
were just beginning to form.
You should thank me. I saved you from something.
Eventually, you might never
have been able to come back.
She told him to count the stars, but that didn’t make any sense, he complained,
because during the day, there was always
Come here, she whispered, I need to teach you a lesson.
He nodded, and crawled, dragging his face
across the ground.
She rubbed dirt into his eyes; she stuck a branch
into his mouth. He spat out the red
and apologized. I shouldn’t have,
he moaned. I
understand that now. I didn’t know better.
She made him eat a spider.
///Interlude: the birdman///
The Brother and Sister wandered across
the side of a hill, where they saw the birdman.
He stood poised against darkness, beside his cage,
a plastic beak fastened beneath his eyes.
All the feathers had been plucked from his body.
There were wings tied to his back, fashioned
from sticks and sheets of blankets, except both
of them were broken from when he ran,
trying to fly but only falling across the ground.
He sailed his birds like kites in the storm—
each of them tied to the end of a string, an
upward mass, struggling against the grip that held
The Sister said, It’s sad, so sad,
and the Brother nodded. They’d been eating
from a picnic basket on the side of another hill.
One of them wondered where the storm had
come from (the other knew). Looking closely,
it was possible to see tears falling from the bird-
man’s eyes, to see the shaking of his arms,
to see the frailty of his posture. The Sister
threw a rock at him; the Brother sat further
down the hill with both arms around his knees,
thinking about ghosts, thinking about his Mother.
He thought about his Father, building a Second House.
He thought about planets circling white fountains
in space. It felt like something was wrong, or had gone
wrong, a long time ago, but no matter how long he thought,
he just couldn’t say what it was.