I built a fifth house near the river. I placed my head under its water and drank. I was a deer again, as my brother and I had been when we were young, hooking antlers, lowering our necks. My brother the deer, that forest. We would run in those woods until the sun dissolved, until the river froze. Those were skies meant to be believed. Those were stars held up by strings. Those were different woods than these.

In these woods, standing beside this river, I am lost. I don’t know where I came from. I left a trail of yarn, what was a scarf, but when I follow it, I am only led in circles. I loop trees and rocks but do not come to any understanding. These woods are where I am going to die. Those woods, when my brother and I were deer, those were the woods of our beginnings.

I built this fifth house of scarf yarn, layering it up into walls and windows. I worked the yarn as a constructivist would. I built a chimney for the first snow and hung gutters for the rain. I planted flowers in the front to greet my brother when he returns, when he brings a scythe instead of a black dot on a scrap of paper, when he brings intention. And if he never does, the flowers will burn up like summer, my scarf yarn to flames in front of this house.

I wait for him to return with hooves, though he may hide inside of a fox or a bear or a rabbit. He may linger in a bird until it is time. This means I must keep watch on all of them from my open doorway, twirling a strung-out wall of yarn in my fingers. I am a careful eye on these trees, but I see nothing. These woods will not abandon me, even though I am lost, even though my brother is hiding in its furs, even though the moment of my death has been messaged to me here.

As deer we breathed woods, my brother and I. We ran through lifetimes. But he does not return in any kind of body. The river is generous and keeps running. And the moon goes about its rising even as the house flickers to fire. The fifth house burns down with me inside it. The animals scatter back to their own homes in the branches and the hollows. And the scarf yarn house goes quickly, burning down, and I am alone again. But these woods are not for hopelessness, they are for learning how to remember. Deer-brother, there are always still these woods.

J. A. Tyler is founding editor of Mud Luscious Press and author of Inconceivable Wilson (Scrambler Books) as well as the forthcoming A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed (Fugue State Press) and, with John Dermot Woods, the image text novel No One Told Me I Would Disappear (Jaded Ibis Press).

I Built a Fifth House
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