[ the fourth house /// re-burned ]
J. A. Tyler
I built the fourth inside of a mountain, in a cave I carved out, moving every stone from its mouth like teeth from a jawline. There was sound but it was only wind tinged with screaming, the second bear burning inside of the fourth house re-burned. I had already opened up this second bear, made of him red paint that I used to liven up the darkness of the cave walls, but he was still somewhat alive when I burned down the rest, when I laid out my deer-name on the floor of the fourth house and lit it up, waiting for the smoke to push me out.
In these woods, loss and being lost are two different things.
I stood outside of the fourth house, watching the cave-mouth smolder, smoke rising up above these lost woods, the fear of loneliness a silence already passed. I looked down on the deer-valley, the herd-river running, but there were only trees and foxes, pretend-brother bears and birds flitting, fish underneath amber river-water or deep cold lake. There was no deer-brother in any of this, and the branches wavered in wind.
The fourth house walls collapsed on themselves, and the cave returned to the mountain, filled in with new stones, blackened ash and soot left in an empty belly in a hollow moment of mountainside.
In these woods, death is a quiet loss.
In these woods, I am a deer-brother without a brother, and I am lost.
The smoke goes to the sky and the sky stays where it is. I walk down the mountain. I breathe one last breath of smoke. I hold the horizon pinned where it is and I walk until I overtake it. It is an easy horizon that holds, but beyond the horizon is the same forest I am trapped in, the same mountain I started from, the same glacier glacier-moving that I have seen before, and I am again where I was. I am on the side of this mountain, I am back where the smoke was, I am where the fourth house was built and burned and built and burned again, where the second bear died and then died again, where I painted words as walls on the stretch of a cave I had made to hide my sorrow.
There are no words to tell what purgatory is.
In these woods, I make houses as lures, hoping to hook my deer-brother back to me. He can take this death away. He can hold the message to his chest until it seeps through his ribs, until there is no want of dying left, until it is only deer-brothers and an endless river to run beside.
There is no solitude in death. There is no solace in mine.
Dear Brother, where have you gone?
Dear Brother, why did you leave me here?
Deer-brother, I am at a loss.
There is nothing left but to walk again to that horizon, to somehow end up again at the start, to rebuild and re-burn, to re-dream.
In these woods there is only sometimes the moving on that is left.
J. A. Tyler is the author of “A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed” and has recent work with Diagram, Black Warrior Review, Redivider, Fourteen Hills, and New York Tyrant. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious Press.