Writer in Residence · 12/02/2010

Variations of a Brother War (Education Triptych)

J.A. Tyler’s original:

Variations of a Brother War (Education Triptych)

Breathe In

When Gideon was a boy his father held out the rifle, ball loaded and powder locked. Gideon’s father let him cradle the stock, spoke about how the weapon is a woman and where a woman carries her ammunition. And to Gideon it wasn’t about the words but about holding the rifle up towards that bird on the limb who flew away when he pulled the trigger. And the sky cracked open and the walnut in his father’s mouth rolled from one side to the other, saying Sure, its takes aim and then holding Gideon’s strong hand in the bright sun.

Hold On

A bullet tears through muscle and comes out the other side. A bullet has enough momentum to lodge into the bodies of trees. A bullet hits on the aperture of swinging bones and shatters into sun-covering clouds. A bullet becomes a valley set to fire by spark on tinder. A bullet is what men use to speak to one another, the first calling with a shot across his brother’s shoulder and the second returning the words with squeezed phrasing, volleying back and into his brother’s heart. A bullet as love, as if it could sink into the organs and weep.


It was Miller’s first shot with Gideon in the cabin and the sun setting and the sky darkening around Miller and his father and that rifle held beneath stars. Miller felt his father poke words into the back of his boy-head: Sometimes there is only one shot and then the bird disappeared into a animal built inside-out. Miller smiled into his father’s open hand and the moon overtook the tree-line. One less bird and Miller feeling the weight of an unloaded rifle, heavier than when he hefted it towards the feathered-distance, lighter still than using it to deconstruct a brotherhood.


The Remix:

The Animal Built Inside

It wasn’t about the birds who flew away but how the sky cracked open. The bright sun and the valley set to fire. Spark by spark, tinder to tinder. It was not about our words but the women and their voices, of bones swinging and lodged in bodies. Of organs, sunk and weeping.

Now the back of his boy’s head, now his father’s open hand, an animal built inside out. Our love’s squeezed phrasing is what men used to speak to each other, lost in cabins and the sky darkening, and beneath the star lit horizon, as we witnessed the feathered distance.


Remixer’s process: I’ve been fascinated, off and on, by triptychs and initially I wanted to work directly with that form in my remix. However, in my prepping, I soon realized I was more stimulated by the language itself. J.A. Tyler is one of my favorite prose stylists, after all, and I became engaged with the idea of reshaping his phrases into something condensed and strange. Any connection, thematically, with the original would be purely accidental, although who knows what power original phrases carry with them from place to place? The process went quickly from then on—I underlined the lines that my gut said I liked best, cut them out with the scissors, and retyped these into the machine. Hopefully, I did little thinking throughout and the phrases assembled themselves into something new almost immediately.


posted by Robert Kloss