j o s h u a    r    h e l m s

 

 

JOURNEY


ROUTINE


PREPARATION


SHAPING









































JOURNEY

 

There is a car & Boy can't decide
which one of us is driving. The radio
keeps repeating the same song, my
favorite, but Boy says it's his,
& I wonder how long we can keep this
up, how long each of us can claim to be
the other. We measure hands against
hands, fingers against fingers, as if knowing
which are larger, bonier, more freckled
is going to solve anything. Boy says
This feels different somehow. Are we
on a different road? Are those the same
trees?
I tell Boy I'm not sure, but Iím lying.
I know this is not any different from last week,
last month, last year, when we drove home &
the trees were iced over & swaying in the wind.
The way he looks at me with his hand
too far up my leg & his teeth bursting
from his mouth, I wonder if there is a word
for smiling & feeling sick at the same time,
if there is a way for me to say this. But
the potholes keep appearing too late
& out of nowhere. The car jerks, the tires
dip & for a moment we are both above
& below the ground. In the next, we're just above.

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ROUTINE

 

All day long Boy's body is bent over carcasses. Our house is littered with charts & drawings & the remains of unidentified humans. Boy says he doesn't understand his body, the way it's put together, how it snaps into place. I think about telling him that he can learn from my body, but I don't. Instead I ask if he's going to be at this much longer. Instead I walk around the house naked because I'm not above coercion. His shirt is sweaty against my skin. His hands are licked with bone dust & when he palms my belly I taste chalk. He counts the number of times he locks our front door before he goes to sleep. He counts the number of times he checks to make sure all the burners on the stove are off before he slides his body next to mine. He tries to synchronize our breathing, but he rolls over when I won't quit stopping.

 

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PREPARATION

 

Boy has a particular heart & he's turning it over
in his hands like an object he's trying to understand.
It's like his heart is an artifact & Boy's trying
to memorize its intricacies because he has to report
them later. As if he has to complete a test based entirely
on his findings. I want to say I think peculiar is the word
he's looking for, but instead I watch him continue
to thumb his heart, this extraordinary misshapen ornament
slow leaking in all directions. He picks a dash of bone
& I add it to the other bits collected in the forgotten glass
of water on my nightstand. I'm trying to be patient
but outside the snow is dissolving. Outside the sun's erasing
everything & inside Boy's poring over something
I don't really want to understand. I think about his bones
sunk in the glass, how they confetti the water. I consider
drinking them as a distraction, to put a stop to Boy's
thinking, to catch one in my throat & choke.

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SHAPING

 

When Boy smiles his teeth are tiny black birds
taking flight. The other day a glass broke
in the kitchen sink & the top of my hand went
open. There weren't enough paper towels & I chewed
the stitching for hours, waiting for Boy to notice.
Sometimes I dream my lungs are made of glass
& I have to be very careful. I don't know how
to keep my legs from vibrating. It's work
to find a place to stop & breathe. Then this splitting,
a slow departure: Boy's mouth as a place to launch &
I'm not sure what we're looking for, which words
can make this make sense. We're on the beach
again. His pockets are full of enough metal
to melt & make another sculpture of ourselves.

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JOSHUA R HELMS' work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Fairy Tale Review, New England Review, Phoebe, Redivider, and Sixth Finch, among others. These poems are from his first collection, Machines Like Us, which is forthcoming from Dzanc Books in 2014.


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