Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Bryce Johle

Photo by Fiona Art on

Brother Sores

Forget how we ulcered.

You used to trail pearled rope
past classroom windows,

stitch into microfoam,
veined maple mecca.

I was a squirrel hopping fenceposts,
along a Van’s-trotting hipster,

cracking the pearls,
harvesting cardigan fruits

as if I found them on my own.

Forget I skipped your wedding,
where my fiancé wasn’t invited.

Like you knew me as a carousel,
Mouth bit steered by maypole.

And forget
when I said I wouldn’t come,

you never told me if it hurt.

I won’t forget your plaster
arm and two legs,

your wife’s all-grown-up
sunflower sundress,

or, at 28, your amnesiac eyes
which no longer pin me down.

You suckle her pudding,
adoring her hands near lips,

not car keys,
while the nurse cannot speak

to tell what you, or we, became.

Forget retracing my steps.

Whether in adolescence
we depressed together,

tongue, wrist, and wisteria hair;
when we cheered our coffee

to traded Bradburys
and bitter IPAs,

if our mugs clanged true,
or precisely when

the ringing ceased.

I remember my college mailbox,
tearing open your PB & J—

I’m sorry penned in bread—
and an old page torn from Twain.

You said I was a wild dog,
alloyed Athenian,

like him.


Almost Woods

Where I am, where my feet and legs carry me,
I do not know, except the almost woods.
Newly planted trees cuffed in mesh
To conserve, protect a memory from the Fall
When we were silent, parsing wood peck
With its spot in the barren trees.
Yet paths have moved,
Wooden games have disappeared,
Replaced with crossed metal fences.
Almost alone, hikers pass,
Dogs on leashes sniffing hand and yipping,
Tires coasting like small waves splashing in,
Receding from a nearby road,
Where homes loom over, watching this place.
A forest wanted to keep being, somehow,
But instead, it’s a leftover blood cell
Kept for short dates,
Or a miniature triage center for panic attacks
With manmade shelter and lighting
Girded by deep-pocketed neighborhood,
Robbing it
Of a cosmic stomach, unable to digest
Affliction like sap squeezed between fingers.
I walk mud trails. I tell my breath to leave me.
Until I’m wrung, collapsing.
I let the air flood me whole again
As I read names and words carved in bark,
Smooth, old birches of love—
Nature calls me closer when it’s hungry,
When I crave foreign enzymes
To break me down to smaller pieces,
Let the acid burn my throat,
And if I cry, I cry.

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