Where it starts

Parents sat their infant on the land and smiled, Build a house. Milk dripped along the fattened grooves of baby’s cheeks. His first thought, the most important question of all: How? Parents shuffled backward and smiled, Build your house. They threw these thoughts back and forth; each time parents stepped away. Wind played with baby’s hair, swayed the grass, across fields freckled with apple trees, pine trees, elm trees—the trees hung, bent like truth; they hugged, danced with laughter near water.

Cardinals brought the infant berries with the sun. White wolves slept curled around him: warm undulating breath, comfortably dirty fur, protective with the moon. He asked the birds and wolves, How? They answered as the river did—with a blissful shh. Parents provided the river; it soothed his throat, cleaned his skin, urged him to listen. He learned fire from lightning, imagination from clouds, and found tools scattered across the fields, beneath unruly trees.

As wilderness grew through his mind, he grew strong, chopped and shaved trees, hauled them home, and built his walls. Why the boards tumbled, he couldn’t understand. The teenager never learned of foundations, pillars—only walls. He worked fast, so fast that he balanced a roof atop the walls before they could fall. But the roof failed to hold the wind, and spilt the walls.

Parents hid books and music instruments, stacked them against trees. The young man tried these for support, propped the books, hooked the saxophone, tied guitar strings in complicated knots around the boards. Wind brought it all down again. Every storm collapsed the roof, broke his body. But he found more gifts in the fields: engines, tires, pencils, paper; and he found more friends: ducks who taught him to dance, turtles who showed him patience.

No matter what, the roof cascaded when the wind shifted. Aches spread from the man’s body to his mind, a sickness of mood and focus that cycled in and out of his control and understanding. Covered in stripped, collapsed wood, the remains of ever-shifting wind, he still asks, How?