I started by building a house
J.A. Tyler

I started by building a house. I took an axe and chopped down a tree. I chopped down several trees. I cut the limbs from all of them. I shaved the stick-arms of their children. I used the saw to make each branch smaller. I sectioned the trunks into usable pieces. I notched some and angled others. I planed. I laid them in stacks until the stacks made walls, and I made walls until the house had four of them, one on each side. I used logs and limbs and branches to make triangles and I placed the triangles on point to make a roof. I covered the roof in evergreen and moss. I covered the roof in mud and sod. I covered the roof until there was a house to live in. And when the first snow came, I built a chimney. And when the first rain came I fashioned gutters. And when the first bout of sun came and the cabin swelled with heat I walked outside naked, my body coated in honey, and waited for the bears to come.
Inside of the house I made jam. I made strawberry jam and raspberry jam and blueberry jam and blackberry jam. I picked the berries from nearby hills and washed their skins in rain and sank them slowly in boiling sugar and pulped them cool with my fingers. The difference between jam and jelly is in the use of pectin, a glue of powdered bones. I made jam because moving my hands over berries, mashing their fruit, it is an early kind of religion.
When the first fox found my door he brought me a stick in his mouth, laid it on the grass. I took the stick and tossed it away out into the field. He was full of envy. He was jealous of my hands, he hated my white rounded teeth. I could see it in him and the way his body slunk through our woods. That evening he stood at the tree-line in a silky dusk and showed me how he could tear meat using only with his paws and incisors. And I learned that blood is always red, even in the strains of a forest. And that fox, who was not my son, never walked my path again.
The second fox brought me a plug of grass in his mouth and set it in the grass already grown around my doorstep. He yelped as he strode away and his animal-moan sounded like a baby shrieking. He felt like my son and we were playing a game of forest-tag, running the mountains. This second fox was different from the first because he loved me and laid trinkets at my cabin door. This second fox was different because I wanted to trap him and wear his skin. This fox was my son and I was his father and I wanted to open his fur and understand how it feels to be both inside of someone and settled beneath them. Wrapped in this second fox's hide, I felt a new fatherly warmth.
And this second fox became more a part of me than my own real son, who was not here building a cabin in the woods, who was living in a city made of cardboard, underneath an overpass, smearing oil on his cheeks. This second fox became a use: I made his bones into a crucifix that I hung above my doorway, I made his bones into pectin for jelly-making. I smeared a biscuit with jam and soaked his fox blood into my father's blood, the two of us finally again talking about what it means to exist.