Fiction · 11/04/2009

of wood

Dark skies today he says and she says I love the look of clouds and it has been so long since she has said anything that he isn’t sure how it all works. He sits. He stands. He turns around and closes his eyes and opens them and she is sitting there, her knees above her waist, legs bent on the steps to her front door, where the world sometimes implodes, where she sits.

I love you he says and feels all those problems in the words as constant knocking on the wooden door of himself.

His heart is wood, grains showing, a perfectly solid cube.

My heart is wood he says thinking it will make her something else, but she is still a butterfly, she is still a breeze, she is still a fish he can’t catch in all the water of the world.

My heart is a splinter he says and what she does is she stands and puts one hand on the wrought-iron railing, the black metal, hearing dial-tone in her ears, watching clouds.

He wants her to see him but it is impossible, because he is always right there, beside her, a watch on a wrist, sitting on the same steps with the same bent knees and the same pleading long face.

She sees a dog. She sees a car. She sees a mailbox. She sees a postman put mail in a mailbox. She sees a postman take mail from a mailbox. She sees an empire in the clouds. She sees herself a queen in the clouds. She imagines the running of her heels beneath a gigantic sequined dress, she stumbles. In clouds she stumbles, falls on more clouds, the abrasiveness of dreams, of dreaming.

Splinters under our skin he says and she just stands and just watches clouds and just wonders about how mail travels from place to place in all those hands.

And she walks up the steps and inside the door, taking the clouds with her, behind her eyes, leaving him at the bottom, watching her go up. He goes up. The clouds go up. The air in her lungs goes up her throat and out her mouth, not the spill of words but a sigh, a yawning escape, clouds.

He takes a hacksaw from the nightstand. He takes a pruning knife from the dresser drawers. He takes a lathe from the closet. He takes an adze from under the covers. His wood arms. His wooden legs. All the grain of him.

He takes out instruments and equipment and puts on safety goggles and earplugs and cuts straight through his arm and his leg, so unbalanced then that he falls to the carpet, weeping sawdust and bleeding knots of wood.

She watches out the window, oblivious to his wooden-suffering, to his limb devastation. She sees a castle. She sees a dinosaur. She sees a man walking arm in arm with a woman, his wife or daughter or mother or sister. She sees clouds melt, whipped cream in hot chocolate. Her mouth makes a noise like mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

His arm and leg motionless and apart, the rough timber of inside wood, hearts. He says to her I am going to make myself into a table. She says nothing. He says to her I am going to make myself into a rocking chair. I am going to make myself into a hope chest. I am going to make myself into a butcher block cutting board. She is looking at clouds. She doesn’t see him in clouds or in her room or in pieces about her feet.

The sky blue. The clouds.

He spins turns moves manipulates his limbs, the lost cause, and there appears a hutch, for rabbits or dishes, and he says to her in his loudest log tones I can make myself into whatever it is that you want. But the words sound like stain and lacquer and varnish. The words sound like faux-finish. The words sound like clouds shaping and reshaping into everything that she sees and doesn’t see watching out a bedroom window.

Her white sheets. His white sheets. The bed pillows fluffed and upright. The quilted blanket his grandmother’s quilting hands made.

I am of wood today but I am here.

She flinches but it is because a cloud all of the sudden looks like a forest burning. Clouds looking like smoke. Clouds looking like how skin must go up in flames when eyes are made to ash. She flinches and he thinks it is because his words have made a dent in her. They have not, his words, made any such thing.

His words make logs from trees. His words make him a wooden statue, a Trojan horse cased in framing and opened only when she is sleeping, pouring out all his failures into her head. She sleeps and hears nothing. She sleeps and does not dream. She sleeps and there are clouds.

Inside he says I am more than just this wood. But it is not true. He is wooden heart and wooden ladders, his lungs are paper-thin shreds and his fingernails are collections of splintered wood. Every bit of him is ready to light ablaze.

She sees in the clouds a can of gasoline. She sees matches. She sees tinder. She sees light radiating from underneath coal glow, white hot clouds. Hears nothing of him as he goes on saying Make me into anything you want. She doesn’t want to make anything. She wants to sleep without dreams, or to dream of sleeping.

He has no recourse but to cut the rest of himself up, to trim and trim and trim until what is left is scrap wood, bits of bark, trinkets of trees for smoking salmon hung marinated and dry on the hooked beams of her ceiling.

Light me up he says and she does, with all the clouds watching and never seeing him, never hearing his mouth of fish fins, swimming. His lips to fire and she smells end of summer, the burn of fall leaves on trees, blue sky going colder.

Make me he says and she does, into a fire, that lights from inside out.


J. A. Tyler is the author of the novel(la)s INCONCEIVABLE WILSON (scrambler books, 2009), SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE (ghost road press, 2009) & IN LOVE WITH A GHOST (willows wept press, 2010) & has had recent work with Sleepingfish, Caketrain, Hotel St. George, elimae, & Action, Yes. He is also founding editor of mud luscious / ml press. For more details, visit: