Joshua R. Helms
BOY BUILDS A CAGE OUT OF BIRD RIBS
He kills a hundred birds to do this. They are tiny birds. Boy uses a lot of glue but I can still smell the meat. The cage is shaped like a phone booth. It is big enough for two people but the sides are fragile. We keep close to each other not to bump into them. Boy’s shoulder knocks my chin. My shoulder knocks his chin. Our shoulders & our chins keep meeting each other. I can’t raise my arms. I tell Boy I feel trapped. This is a cage, he says. This is how it’s supposed to feel. I ask him where he found all the birds & he says there are trees full of empty nests in the back yard. The crowd of bodies on the carpet shifts. A bird burrows its way out & sits atop the other birds. Little bastard, Boy says. The bird watches us & we watch the bird & the bird watches us watch it. Boy runs the back of his hand along his forehead. A streak of red bisects the strip of skin between his eyebrows & his hairline. I try to lick it off & Boy closes his eyes. My elbow unhinges several of the ribs when I put my hand on Boy’s back. Almost instantly we’re shaking bones out of our hair. Almost instantly Boy’s at it with the glue again.
I am trying to figure out how I got here & where
here is. The bathroom door keeps shutting itself.
None of my hairs are the same length. Boy is
nowhere to be found & everywhere smells like you.
You tell me you’re not a replacement & I believe you,
I want to believe you. But something is wrong
wrong with my eyes & their seeing. Historian, your face
all blurred. My ears are still broken from the blast &
can’t you try putting your mouth closer to the phone
or maybe closer to my neck. I am tired of asking
for more volume. I am tired of asking for more words.
About The Writer
Joshua R. Helms is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. His work has appeared / is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, H_NGM_N, Redivider, and Sixth Finch, among others.