in the eighth chapter, he is bending over the altar.
you take him in – both the borrowed & fingered scars, the thicket
of blades held in place by skin, at once regular & irregular.
hide in the curtains & the dog & the house
hide in the beautiful & the twisted & the crossed
hide in the knife & everything it means
hide in the escape within all of us
he is ten & asleep. his father comes home late,
unbuckles up the stairs. breath of cosmopolitan
& women upon this flute-whisper body. quiet now,
because this is how you survive. the world stirring against
every arch of your back as you move like negative space,
breaking like the law & no one around to cry about it.
man of the dagger, say it was for the glory.
to feel like the gods that came down as themselves.
in the sixth chapter, he is standing in front of a mirror, holding
his mother’s body with rubber gloves, a still-framed skeleton chiseled
into the suicide of these walls so he can feel monstrous.
in the tenth chapter, he is never found. how he starved
& bled on the road. how he hungered
for the tremors at night. the weightlessness, the surrender.
how he still mattered enough to hurt.
he lifts his hands above his trembling body
like an elephant’s trunk, fingers coaxing the air
into safety bars, into confession. that night, you learn
a man who cannot be forgiven is capable of anything.
to rule and be ruled, that is the honor.
in the last chapter, you tell him, give everything. give your everything
in this city, in this country. which is nothing.
which is family. you hold him tight against your chest
until his fists are a love song. until he is gone
& more than ever.
you were not invited to this place.
this place of spit & smile, the sink
of warm water, your body lending
to another. say it was for the glory
of it all. to feel like the gods
that came down as themselves.
as the rage of this night.
bury this child before
he becomes a child.
before your hand against
his cheek is not a hand,
but the terror. again & again,
you write through the boy
you once were, a language
you cannot know. you say
your mouth does not want
to mean anything anymore.
not holy. not wound.
you make a home of what
broke you in the first place.
somewhere, the world is babbling
at your feet & still you walk away.
oh glory child, what comes next.
what will you become if not alive.
you are dancing at a bar//you are waiting for a boy//this boy is dead//you are dancing for the dead//you apologize to a boy//drunk on how you apologize//you are dancing at a bar//double shot the dead//your wrists opening to god//boys are running down your arms//boys are bared against an alley//boys are dancing & still alive//you are drunk off this city//this city loves nothing//you are told to be alive// gas the city & keep dancing//apologize to the alley//die for god & love nothing
to boy of drowning in a river,
here are the lives you never had.
when you woke each morning
& built yourself from nothing.
your body in the mirror as how
do we fix you. you are searching
in your chest for every angel
he left behind as though
what you touch can be undone.
the games you played as a child:
cracks breaking bones with every
step. alive because that’s your job.
the games you play now: throat
as the first fire. as the riot of
your lips. who can steal gravity
from the noose. who can pretend
to be a story, because that’s one
hell of a story, boy surviving, isn’t it?
Tyler Tsay is a student at Williams College. He is the Editor in Chief of The Blueshift Journal, and his work, both past and upcoming, can be found in The Offing, The Postscript Journal and others. When not doodling, collecting quills, or composing cello pieces, he loves a good view, though having an atrocious fear of heights. And yes, fezzes are definitely cool.