This boy is about to decant the cleanser into the pruney mouthfold of a gerbil. He looks like the spiked onset of a yawn, making bantam contortions, enduring the faint torque of unwatchable cable. His shelf contains the brazen, the nautical objects: pronouns, pendants. Portrait of a rocking chair. Ambiguous taxidermy: damp. A wounded bird and mouse’s ear, whittled, glued into a baseball glove.
His mom, Ivy, she tells him to sweep around the puddle, the pendulum. But he gets up on it. He climbs, using the minimal hinges. And he sleeps on his side, on his hair.
All afternoon he picks apart the bladder, the scabs, the lobes inside of him. Picks at them. It’s amazing to think this boy is still sitting. Just soaking in omniscience. Balancing an impressive model of the solar system missing two planets. On the very night he should burst.
He likes: French-fries and chores. And paper toys. His coat is vulture-colored. He hates: noise.
Is that a grin or a grimace? It’s hard to tell from so many missing teeth. One gets the sense this boy has already siphoned and expired, as though the last piece of taffy has been taken from his bilious mouth. But only a minute ago! And by someone he knew!
This boy is staring at baskets, he is stroking them, his ugly friends are getting mad. They hatched from baskets. Their stomachs are all bone or gone, golf-ball bones, all triggered and dented. Together they have a sort of chandelier effect and he is in the light of them, the sharp emerald light bouncing from their eyes. They make interesting aquarium inhabitants. They tell him to back off and he does, he leaves the baskets, he backs off.
Baskets of puce and rose!
His own stomach is a butterfly and last night the hungry bulb burned out. A bunch of yellow butterflies in the dark: magenta, rust, viridian. Butterflies like ribbon in a ceiling fan. How butterflies bleed.
Baskets of lemon and brown!
Last night his tooth fell out in the dark. His insidious tooth fell out and unfolded like a white butterfly, like a fingerprint, pallid. But this time he knew better. He. No. He. Buried butterflies under his pillow like a tooth. How butterflies bury their dead.
This boy listens to a birch tell him it’s not a birch, it’s not dreaming. It’s between two birds, a window in truth, window to where it is. Look through it. Two birds (these!) have been chasing something, or just sussing it because it’s not moving, it can’t be chased. It susurrates. Putrefies to a pumpkin-colored thing, and these birds smelling and playing, they are very sibilant. They are hanging string around it. A pageant.
This boy notices his friend has a rotten aura and he feels it. He sees the vengeful caterpillar on his arm, feels the oil—iron, opprobrium—freeze up on the underside of the ledge. Are they angry at each other? He asks his friend: you know birds can fit through a fence? His friend says: I, I press my cousins into a cave. His friend says: I stack each little crate on purpose.
He and his friend, they color blades in. They press their crotch against the piano. They find their parents’ cones. And pour cold gas in, and feed it to the birds. This one bird’s swan.
Jacob Kahn is a bookseller, editor, and organizer at E.M. Wolfman Books, as well as a longtime special educator in Oakland, CA. He is a 2018 Frontier Fellow at Epicenter in Green River, Utah, a rural design studio and community-based artist residency, and his writing can be found in ‘A Circuit of Yields’ (Wolfman Books, 2014) as well as Full Stop Quarterly, Open House, Elderly, and elsewhere.