ALL THESE VIOLENT CHILDREN J.A. Tyler
Noah didn’t hear anything from the sky directly except for the running of rain through his fingers. Noah’s hair getting long. Noah moving long planks beside other long planks. Noah was making an ark. The ark was wide and long and heavy and made of forests and hinged with metal scraps and planed with Noah’s own hands in the rain with wet wood that was difficult to trim, that rubbed raw before it broke. Noah’s ache was for dry bags of chips. Noah’s dream was for unopened sky. Noah cross-legged on a sanded floor underneath a partially built overhang waiting on a rip of thunder that would follow a slip of lightning that would come down shining at his feet as it had yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and the day before that. Noah building his belief in nature.
Noah rang the bell and asked the air if anyone was at home. Noah rang the bell and asked the hollow if a rabbit of people had burrowed underneath this. Noah rang the bell but no one answered. Noah was by himself, standing on a stoop, holding in his hands plastic sacks unfilled with anchors. The door stood open and inside where rain was coming down through the ceiling, where gunfire or rockets had ripped open the sky, there was a drowned family portrait, a couch, and the flooring waved and bubbled in wet. Noah looked up the stairway and through the holed roof, into the sky where the clouds were bombing rain and the rain was blinding Noah as he looked up into it. His bags filled with parts and pieces stepping down the steps and waving Thank You to the air, to the hollow, to the warren of hunched human rabbits wavering underneath its foundation or buried in its yard by the shatter of ammunition, poorly or rigidly aimed, Noah’s feet raising and lowering in the puddled walks.
Bang on the hammer his arm, Noah’s arm, the nails going down to wood. The blur of grains making an ark. This ark is strongly built because Noah is a strong man and he has no one. This Noah doesn’t have a wife or any children. This Noah has just the rain that has been coming down to the neighborhood he lives in where everyone is gone and he is all that is left. At nights, when the rain is dark, he walks the streets feeling his shoes fill with water. He pretends he is a balloon. He pretends he can float instead of having to build this boat. There is a shore but the shore is a pencil-traced drawing and washes away in the rain. Noah sighs, and his breath comes out in balloons.
Noah thinks that birds are the best fit for his ark because they can fly and so the ark would become just a kind of pedestal or prop or place for them to sit and he doesn’t have to worry about space or time or existing. Birds can flit and land. Birds can go away and come back. He knows that the birds will go away and come back. When the birds come back with sticks in their mouths then that will mean they have found land and the shore has returned and there is dirt again and there will be neighborhoods again and neighbors again and people to go to and ask for sugar again. Noah loves to make cookies but he has no sugar and no one to ask for sugar and so the melt-away of a peanut butter cookie in his mouth is an arc of flight like a bird running and back and building a nest of air in a cloud.
In the air is god if god is in the air. Noah has learned to whistle. Whistling in the rain is not as easy as whistling outside of the rain but there are so few covered places now, rainless. Sometimes Noah whistles in an abandoned or dead house. Sometimes Noah whistles inside of a tin can. Sometimes Noah whistles underneath a tree that has a few leaves left so that in the background of his whistling is a percussion of rain and rain on the ground and rain off of leaves and rain hushing down gutters. Mostly Noah whistles in his own head to keep from thinking Why am I still here or How has this broken down or What has become of the moon or Where is it that I am floating to. All this time has taught Noah to whistle. The quiet is what has taught Noah to whistle. The hopelessness is what has taught Noah to whistle.
Noah has found that the mast for a sail is important but not as important as remembering to look up at least once a day and open his mouth to the water. If he forgets to yawn wide and let the boulders of his tonsils seep with rain then he blacks out on the sidewalk or on the deck of the ark or underneath the thunder that is constant. And when he blacks out he comes to almost drowning but not, with birds floating around his head, a birdbath, a fountain for a face, unleashed feet from ground. A mast is a large pole in the mid-section of a ship. The mast holds the sail. The mast commands the wind. The mast unwinds the boat. The mouth is a hole for feeding water into, words out of, boats of language down world-gutters. Noah is a nail in a plank in a boat that he is building because there seems nothing else left to do.
The lightning asks Noah to build a garden on his ark and plant seeds in that garden and let it be watered by rain. The clouds ask Noah to put mud in his garden if no dirt is left and to plant branches in his garden if no seeds are found and to let rain into his garden if no hope exists. The rain asks Ping Ping Ping Ping. Four-by-four rails and mud branches into veins on the deck of Noah’s ark. Noah asks himself to stay mentally awake to pairs. Noah asks himself to watch the clouds and the lightning and the rain. Noah’s ark is not ready to launch but the water is trimming up the planks as he builds and there is nothing left to stop him from going on. There will be a shore, when this on goes.