The wind comes in through the branches of the cottonwoods first. The rustle of their leaves sounds like the crunch of tires on gravel. He turns to see if a car is coming. The buzzards circle to the left, rising on an updraft.
He imagines finding a body. It is lying in the bushes. The eyes are open. The blue of them flashes against the grass. He takes a stick. He must take a stick. He edges to the body. He pokes it. He must poke it. The stick pushes against the thigh. It is soft. It yields and the stick slips inside. Bacteria has entered the venous system. The blood has hemolyzed and traces out green. He knows that eggs of the Calliphoridae family stud the corpse. Blow-flies. Carrion-flies. Bluebottles. Greenbottles. Cluster-flies. The body is fly blown.
The buzzards fly down, banking left and descending, each one a feathered do-te-la-so-fa-mi-re-do.
Choir room. Fifth grade. Mrs. Meyers who always stomped when she wanted a crescendo.
Youngstown, Ohio, Seven years old. He doesn’t understand why his cousin is not crying at their grandmother’s funeral.
“He just shows he’s sad in other ways,” his mother says. Already there is a gap between himself and other boys.
He navigates this gap: rising on updrafts, flight feathers twitching as the feel out the currents. Shift the pronoun left from He to I. Attach a list of events. Attach a train of memory, pulling steam wrapped out of the station. Sketch out a skeleton with words. “They are a strange and docile wheat,” but they will hold, twisted and knotted together. He has been crafting this frame for some time now. He must make sure it can bear the weight of “I” before he slips it over the head and shoulders.
His father always claimed that Africans has avians in their ancestry. Hollow bones. Weightless frames. His father claimed this is why Kenyans always won marathons. Kenyans. Nigerians. Ethiopians. Zimbabweans. Their names rolling out of the mouth, vowels jostling to be next to one another, separated by a slight suggestion of consonants. In his mind they are carried off in a surge of vowels. a’s. e’s. i’s. o’s. u’s – even a y every now and then, all drifting in on the wind and collecting under the arms of the Kenyans. The Nigerians. The Ethiopians. The Zimbabweans. They are buoyant. Only the balls of their feet meet the earth.
He stays up at night and whispers vowels over his frame of words.
“a. a. a. a. that’s right, nice and easy e. e. e. e.”
He speaks the vowels into the braid of the frame. They bump and settle into creases. Bends. Folds. The cleft between the forearm and the upper arm, the sweep where the body rests on the legs. Vowels curve. They roll the mouth, sound sliding from the throat. They smooth the frame of braided words and he slides the flesh of “I” over them. It settles into the creases. The bends. The folds. The clefts on the insides of the elbows and the sweep of the thighs.It spins out soft and new and glows golden in the reflected light of the vowels.
Gold like the coils of the toaster oven in the morning – all heat that cannot travel by word.
Gold like the rush of wheat in Kansas, curling in the wind like a wavehead.
Gold like this and like that and also this ting. You cannot understand the first gold I have told you, so here are several more. Can you touch against them in the dark and understand their shape? Can you now know the first gold? Can you now know anything I have told you? All the dark fumblings that are spoken. The sound of words like the fall of a mouse’s feet on a rafter.
The rain that comes silver slither through the leaves. The oak has watched him and those before him. The rain falls against its leaves. The rain falls against his wings. His arms stretch out, the beta keratins of his hair braiding foreign and wrong. Feathers between his fingers. Feathers in the cleft between his forearm and his upper arm.
He begins to mutter, “a. e. i. o. u. u. u. e. i. o. u. u. u. e. a. a. y. a. a. y. a. i. i. i. e. i. o. u.”
He rocks up onto the balls of his feet and the vowels gather in his armpits. He speaks down the length of each arm. The arms stretch further out. Silver like the feathers of a buzzard catching the full light of the sun. Silver like the feathers studded with rain from the oak tree.
He quickens, “aaaaaeeeeaaaaeeeaaaaaeeeeiou.”
The feathers fill out. Vaned feathers. Down feathers. Contour feathers. Filoplumes. Flight feathers. He leans forward, the vowels jostling out beneath his arms. He pushes forward and runs down the hill of the backyard. His strides grow longer. He leaps to the roof. one. two. steps and then pushes from the peak.
“aeiou.” his feathers shift, feeling for an updraft. “aeiou.”
An updraft of warm air washes over him and he circles left, riding it. The clouds spill out like gravel, mica glinting in the rises of the cumulonimbus.
The wind comes in through the branches of the cottonwoods first and his mouth fills with the twist of gray.