[ the first fox /// reburned ]

BY J.A. Tyler

The first fox makes me remember the first house, which was the house I built when I arrived, when the sky opened or it was my eyes and there were these woods. I was in them. There were mountains and the following of a river, the first fox walking alongside me, a pretend-brother. 

In these woods what I remember most was the feeling of being alive, even though I don’t believe in these death-dreams. I believe in the bark on trees. I believe in the stillness of air. I believe in birds calling above me or down, even when I cannot understand their message. 

These woods are a difficult place. These woods are a haunting. In these lost woods, I am remote.

The first house was made of trees. I used an axe. I used a saw. This first house was the forest felled and I made walls. I made walls and a floor and a ceiling to hold above my head. I made a chimney for the first snow and gutters for the rain. I gave the first house a first porch so that I could stand upon it, look out from it, see the ring of lost woods surrounding me and gesture at its fox-lined interior. 

In these woods, in this first house.

When I call, the word comes out Disbelief.

My brother was deer-hooves, my brother was antlers. My brother was possessed with a message and the message was that I was dying, though I still do not believe him. When I was a deer and we were a herd, we chased the river through these woods, knowing every branch and lichened-rock. This was us as deer-children, ears cocked to a breakdown of light. This was our deer-ancestry, our deer-childhood. My brother, his dear face.

In these woods, my brother has not returned. He left his message and was gone. When I looked from the note to his face, his face had turned the color of sky. He had disappeared and I was left to weep deer-tears from the side of unbrothering.

In these woods, there are no directions.

I stood on the porch of my first house, before it had burned down, and the first fox crept into my head. He was quick, this fox, and though he wanted to be a brother and pretended as best he could, he was a fox, and a fox is never a deer-brother. A fox can only want to be and fail. This is how the world starts on fire. This is how foxes burn.

That fox inside of my head was the first fix, an instant of death-dreams unwound. I invited him in to play catch with honey on our tongues, and we held deer-hoof in fox-paw, we felt the fires rise up around us. This first house, these lost woods, the first fox and my gone-lost deer-brother. We burned down in a lack of knowing.

In these woods, sometimes there are only weeping flames. 

Dear Brother: When was the last time you remember us playing through this river? It was yesterday, a lifetime long, and inside of the river were reflections, and I was unafraid. Do you remember what that was like, to be running, to be deer-brothers? 


J. A. Tyler’s most recent book A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed is now available from Fugue State Press. His forthcoming titles include The Zoo, A Going (Dzanc Books) and, with John Dermot Woods, the image / text novel No One Told Me I Would Disappear (Jaded Ibis Press). He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious Press. For more, visit: www.chokeonthesewords.com.