“A man lumbers into a wood chipper,” is the headline stoking the fire of the local news. Anchors toss the word “meth” through their hot-potato-hands before someone suggests a family history of paranoid schizophrenia (later debunked). They cannot identify the body because all that’s left is pulp and the pearl dust of bone marrow. They know he was naked though because not a scrap of cloth was found. Eventually the word “suicide” weighs on everyone’s tongue like a dry pebble and, in a Dantean gesture, they plant a tree in his name. No one bothers to ask why, or question the cat who saw everything with her many teeth smiling.
The cat with many teeth smiling is crooning in the alley. Its paws step between crunched cans and a chip of glass has burrowed into a pad. A tiny trail of blood is mapping a gene pool of mewling and feline leukemia. The alley is a trash bin between two brick walls — jammed while compacting. The cat stopping on one edge of the street. A contorting river of blood groaning on the other, sifting around heaps of litter like an ocean swell on a shield volcano’s exposed areola. There is a broken picture frame with a photo of two men arm in arm. A corner peeling away from the frame shows a pair of names on the back: Boris and James. The cat with many teeth smiling settles into her nest of shredded cardboard, and her blood fails to crawl back inside its icky gooey womb.
Boris slipped in a kiss on James’ cheek and smelled a rush of beer breath before the camera flashed. They were on a hotel balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Honeymoon in Hawaii. Their kisses in bed like palm slapping pavement. Morning soups thick as their hangovers. Many mistakes also made at night. Stars that dangled like string glyphs. A hierarchy of blueprints the two mapped, hands clasped and lying on sand warmed to smoldering by a summer sun. The waves almost swallow their toes. Desires get whispered so loud it’s heard on the other side of the amphitheater sky. James blinks the windblown sand from his eyes, and Boris has rolled over smiling down at him — the crown of his head eclipsing the stars.
James obsesses over the
niche between bricks in the
theirs. Every time the parents
squeaking chicks over the hum
occasionally, a cat mewling
the screen of his tablet across
from Uganda makes his
sockets. James cannot see bad
eggs between them. He tears a
and sets it on the windowsill to
feed it to their young. Boris
wants to talk about what he
politics before 10 a.m. Boris
brown skin and imagines it a
where lovers only burn
lays his hand over the table,
James to take it. James
appendage, but doesn’t look at
sparrow fly across the gap
on their window sill.
sparrows nesting in a
apartment across from
dart inside he can hear the
of his laptop, and
below. Boris is thumbing
the kitchen table. The news
marrow squeeze in their
news beyond the plate of
grease glistened piece off
see if the sparrows will
sets his tablet down and
read, but James hates
admires his husband’s
door to another world
because of each other. He
palm up and waiting for
squeezes the sweaty
Boris until he sees a
between buildings to land
Airport security won’t let Boris see James to the terminal gate, but James’ camera gear
is already on the other side so James will be soon, too. They prepared for months
after James’ cousin called him on a cold afternoon to ask if he wanted a change
of weather. The two were going to shoot a documentary on gay men living
in Nigeria. James holds his husband for a moment — they kiss. The TSA
agent rolls her eyes. James says, “Don’t forget to leave seed for the
sparrows.” Boris wishes for eloquence to say goodbye but love
is all he has so he says, “Okay.” Boris waits an hour in the
parking lot to watch James’ plane rise and coast to the
other side of an amphitheater sky. On the ground,
he pays the parking meter extra for the gesture.
The love letter addressed for Boris
is not for him. There is another man. An accidental extra James framed in his lens but a shot he couldn’t take. Over there men are strung up and burned in the place between hammer and sky. Boris sees James kissing up this other man’s foot, feels his passionate desire to be hanging up there rather than lie flat in bed with Boris. He studies the handwritten press of paper. Rather than send an email the night he knew, James chose the intimacy of tree pulp over a sterile screen. Forging a gap in time where Boris wouldn’t be able to follow when he finally noticed the missing space. Boris sets the letter on the table — words of mouthless screams sent up to heaven. A distant song of “Oh lord abide me,” James must have heard while he smelt skin burning. On the kitchen counter he notices the picture of their honeymoon in Hawaii. And Boris suddenly senses a door only meant for him
that has no knob to turn —
The city knows the labor of cutting things away for self-care; every spring the trees have limbs snipped away and tossed in a wood chipper so power lines can breathe.
Boris wakes to a world sounded without person.
A naked silence of world churning without soul.
The picture of Hawaii is absent from the counter and so too is the door Boris is meant to open but can’t.
He opens what he can and the pavement is warm on the soles of his feet.
A breeze runs between his legs and his genitals shrink in the cold.
For every action, Boris knows, an opposite reaction.
Dominoes do not fall in a line, but are pushed, one rushing after the other in circles and circles of sorrow.
An open mouth is grinding its teeth and a breath of saw dust makes Boris struggle through a sneeze.
A touch of soft, tiny paws is all it takes to push a domino over, and Boris feels a pair pressing on his back — falling into the many teeth smiling.
A sound of motor savaging bone.