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Fiction by J.A. Tyler
[ How to Make Tangleweed Soup ]
To make tangleweed soup, take the bones of what is found underground and chew them with ferocity. Arms will flail and the eyes in the skull-head that you maybe find will be vicious. Hold tight, this will be over soon.
Spit the bones back to the desert floor, where all the world’s heat exists. Spoon back the soup into your mouth, wishing for tangleweeds.
This is to make tangleweed soup for one person. If there is a whole dinner party of people then you have to take the last tree in the world, all water-damaged and brittle, smoke it out and remember that it is dead and can never be replanted. Wait a thousand more years for water to return. This tree when it is ashes will be a bowl for your dinner-party soup.
The recipes here are only for the living. If you are dead, then tangleweed soup is only an appetizer. There are other people soon coming through those doors and someone will have something else to share with you.
All of this is to say that when sun is the only moment left, no gardens will grow and tangleweeds will be the only way to say I love you
[ How to Play a Game Called Tangleweed, Tangleweed ]
There will be moments for us when the sun is hung from our shoulders like a jersey and so a game is what must be played.
People have wished for quiet, but we need a crowd. This is a game for two or more players.
There is no beginning until we are in it. There will be no remembering how it all started or what it was that we intended. We did not in fact intend anything. There was sun and then rain and then sun again. We are in the sun again part. This is how it works.
When the score is tied it means that you have played twice as long as is necessary and all that is left in the world must be dry brittle dreams that have shriveled in the tanned, stretched hide of our fists.
Some games are meant to be played and some games are meant to be swallowed whole. This is a game that is left when there is nothing left because all of the water in all of the oceans has been wrung completely out.
Some say sun but we, when we are playing this game, we say Hurrah
To end the game, place your friend in your mouth and his friend in his and if no waves roll over your heads three or four moments later, everyone clamp down at the same time and wish for a scoreboard by saying until you burn: tangleweed
[ How a Tangleweed Manifests Itself in Four Birds ]
There are two blackbirds in a tree. One blackbird is the mother and one blackbird is the baby. The blackbird that is the blackbird baby is brown and mottled. It is shrunken and sick. The blackbird that is the mother blackbird has the sheen of blue on black.
There are two robins apart from the blackbirds.
One robin is on a fence and the other robin is in the rocks on the ground below the fence. The robin that is the robin on the fence is the mother robin. The robin that is the robin on the ground in the rocks below the fence is the baby. The baby has not taken on its gray and orange yet. The baby robin is ground coffee brown with white depression. The robin that is the mother robin is the full red-breasted structure, the dark head and open beak.
The baby robin travels the rocks and the mother blackbird moves toward it. The mother blackbird wings its shoulders at the baby robin and squawks. The mother robin flies down from the fence and interrupts the noise. The mother robin lunges at the mother blackbird until the mother blackbird flies away from the rocks and back to the tree.
The baby robin has already run for cover.
The baby blackbird never left the tree.
This is all to say that if a tangleweed is left in the sun it will be all four of these birds at once.
This is all to say that birds don’t exist when all that is left are tangleweeds.
[ How Much is Needed to Turn Tangleweeds into Rain ]
There is no way to turn a tangleweed into rain. There are people who have set it on fire and who have chewed it up and who have rolled it from one of them back to the next and nothing has produced rain.
There have been people who have taken the tangleweed and cut their skin open and placed fragments of it underneath this and watered those fragments with wishes and hoped from something to grow. Nothing grew.
And there was a man who took the tangleweed and held it in his arms and soothed it like a baby crying and thought that he felt some kind of rain on the open range of his forearms. It was not rain. It was nothing.
There is no way to turn a tangleweed into rain. How much is needed to turn a tangleweed into rain is how much is needed to make another world just like this world, right next to this one and populated with all the crises and chaos of the dryness that kills us here, and to make that place spin as we are all spinning and vomiting dizziness now.
[ How To Make a Mother Out of a Tangleweeds ]
When our mother was alive she was a big bosomy woman who stretched the trees over our heads and told us knock-knock jokes. There was a knife in her apron pocket and she used it to scrape the heads of the chickens from their used-to-be bodies. She was always chewing words or beef jerky.
This was a mother that we could take our friends to and say Hey friends
, this is our mother
and they would smile and nod and say Nice to meet you
To be out in this sun is to be outside of our mother. To be outside of our mother is to be lost. To be lost is to be living in a place where eyes melt and there is no water.
We are parched for both water and mothers. This is tangleweeds. This is how a tangleweed becomes and mother. This is how to make a mother out of tangleweeds.
[ How To Cry Tangleweed When There is Nothing Else Left ]
Being a buffalo used to mean turning in a herd and chewing up the ground. Being a stork used to mean bringing babies or lifting out of lakes with both wings stretched and feeling weightless. Being a moon used to mean knowing fullness and not explosive properties or about being brittle.
There is a word for all of this and the word is Fire
When the sun is not up it is the moon but when the sun is up it is the sun so hot that you and I have died trying to milk the clouds back into existence. There used to be a thing called rain and a thing called a tree and there used to be these squirrels running about that tree in the rain under a sky that was gray with clouds.
If a gray suburban approached us on the roads that no longer exist we would all of us jump into that suburban and pretend it was a cloud and they could drive us on not-roads with no-gas pretending that negation is fulfillment. They would rape us for our bodies but never take away our sun.
If there is a word for all of this the word is Sun
. If there is a word for all of this the word is Light
. If there is a word for all of this then we should take that word and eat on its letters and open our mouths just before we swallow, to show the sky what it means to be us down here burning.
[ How To End a War With Tangleweeds]
First, start the war. Use missiles and bombs and gasses and an endless supply of people who will keep making other people so that when their grandparents die or their parents die or their children die there will always be others.
Take this war and move it to the back of your head where there exists only show-tunes and brilliance. Discover again what it means to be sexy. Devour.
There is a tenor in your voice that I find so revealing, and I want to take it off like a jacket.
To be at war means to miss your mother. We miss our mother. We have warred.
Take a nuclear warhead and hide it inside your dress. Pretend to be pregnant with fissures. Explode. Rain down on us and turn the world into ash. Be an apocalypse. Flood.
Tangleweeds are what used to be people. Tangleweeds are what used to stand for investment or knowledge or love. Take the tangleweeds from around your feet and search their insides for water. There will be none and then this war will be over.
[ How To Convince A Tangleweed to Go On Living ]
Say to the tangleweed What the fuck?
but say it like a statement of fact and not a question. Save the questions for issues that have no relevance and that will be decided by how many people today burn up in this sun.
When there was water there were no tangleweeds. Tangleweeds are all that is left.
Say to this tangleweed that wants to stop living, say What the fuck tangleweed?
but don’t pretend to be its friend and don’t betray your feelings. Make your face into a poker-face, a mask. Make the mask a life-sized replica of your face looking stoic. Look stoic. Wait to see what the tangleweed does.
If the tangleweed seems to accept this and begins to wrap out into this desert, you have done your job.
If the tangleweed still wants to kill itself then look for a sharp rock or a piece of age-old glass and tell that tangleweed to go fuck itself.
If the tangleweed just stares up at you like in disbelief then the two of you have come to an understanding and this is the best time to sit and wait for something new to happen.
[ How To Say Tangleweed in Every Language ]
When there was water there was a sense of being and being meant that you were alive. When there was cement on the ground it was harder for things to grow. Things means plants, trees, bushes. When there were streets there were houses and in the houses lived families and the shape of the planet was round.
Rain down ammunition and the world takes on a more imperfect curve.
When there was a moon the moon was a sphere. The moon here is broken smiling. A smile means that you have been defeated.
The language of love is rocks. The language of mothers is sand. The language of fathers is dirt. The language of law is sun.
When bones remain they are bleached. When bones are gone they have been picked up and used. When bones exist there is no longer a war but instead only placement.
To say tangleweed
to someone else is to say Let’s meet for how it used to be
or Let’s try and do this something new
or Let’s burn up this together in the sun as it is.
[ How to Use a Tangleweed to Pay Off Your Debts ]
It takes finesse but when you wrap that tangleweed around your ankle and then lay down and let it mummy wrap you, there will be a feeling of peace and beauty.
Long ago women used to drag around extra faces in bags and when they needed newness they would weld those on over the previous. This was when rivers still ran and there were children being born.
Tangleweed is a currency born of a desert. Tangleweed is what rain used to look like. If there were birds carrying above us in this sky they would have tangleweed bodies and wings of clouds. They would shift out of their skin and rain down again upon us.
When something is biblical it is round. When something is round it is a ball. When something is a ball we can kick it back and forth between one another and forget how much we owe.
[ How Start a Tangleweed Craft Project ]
Take a rock and fold it into the sand. Take the sand and warm it with the sun. Take the sun and place it in your mouth, close yours eyes, wait for the implosion.
Fear is something that existed when there was repetition and permanence. Fear is no longer.
There are rumors of a girl with water, a girl who has inside of her the last water in this unknown world.
To believe is the be dead.
A craft project is a book about rivers. A book about rivers is a steeple. A steeple is where we file in when prayer returns to us.
This is a steepening.
Take this herd of people and fold them into the earth. Take the earth and wrap it in boiling plates. Take the words that we used to say and extract them from out our pores. Make the world a mute world where only buzzing exists. String hollowed vertebrae on dried tangleweeds, wear this necklace, learn what it means to be humble.
[ How to Pretend a Boy is Not a Dune of Sand But Tangleweeds ]
Most the boys left have turned to herds. They put their heads down against the dust floor and weep but instead of tears it is rocks until a mountain with no trees or snow is formed. These are the kind of boys that remain.
There used to be girls but the girls all wanted to be mothers and mothers are a thing of the past. None of them can find motherhood in their bodies. None of these girls can become.
There is a rumor of a girl who can be a mother. There is a water-rumor inside of her. There is the gossip of a lake.
To pretend, hold the world over your eyes and count to one million. By the time you are done counting there will be either no world left or no you anymore. Either way you will be allowed then to pretend whatever else you like.
This is how it becomes a world to unravel. Unraveling is tangleweed business. Take the tangleweed, cover up your shame.
[ How to Make Your New Teeth From This Tangleweed ]
There is nothing to chew on. Make tangleweed soup. Make tangleweed mothers and fathers. Make a tangleweed house and search it for a remote control to a television made of air for a news broadcast that has yet to be.
Dig around the tangleweed because all of us we know that if it is growing and even yellow as it is then it must have roots that go down and to water.
Make water by holding three fingers up on your hand, pinky suppressed by its thumb, and tap that formation against your chin. If it doesn’t rain then, you are fucked. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we will all die.
This is a plague. The plague is not locusts but a lack of locusts. The plague is not frogs but a lack of frogs. There are no clouds to rain down plagues. The plague here is a lack of plagues. The plague here is how everything is unhinged and open.
Make a sun that is even hotter than what the sun used to be, so we can all burn faster.
Some herds talk of a well. Some herds talk of a spire.
There is no such thing as talk.
Tangleweeds talk underneath the ground but no one has been able to dig low enough to find the source. Those roots continue to infinity. Those roots are the measure of trickery. Those roots are what it means to keep going.
There is no measure for how long it has been.
Take the tangleweeds and put them in your mouth. Smile. Take a mental picture of how you must look in the desert, burned and dying with your new tangleweed incisors.
[ How to Call For More When Tangleweeds Are All You Have ]
Open up a mouth that is not yours. Break the teeth from inside of that mouth if there are any teeth left. Look for milk. Look for bread. Look for water. There were people who once avoided sugar or fat. This is all about water now. Where is the water. Where is the water.
Inside of the mouth that is not your mouth, insert your fist and reach up into where the brain once was. If the passage is blocked use force. If the passage is something you’d rather not think about then simply think about the buzzing of the earth. If the passage is something that will make you scream then you have learned to talk.
Instead of water wish for tangleweeds. Tangleweeds are everywhere. Instead of mouths wish for hands. Instead of hands wish for a baby head that will survive. Instead of survival wish for a three-piece suit that will shine and glitter in sun.
When your hand is up in the brain in the head that has a mouth that is not your mouth, wave your fingers in a motion that will call to the sky for rain. Wait for that rain. It is not coming, but waiting for it here, burning up, will make you thankful for all the dust covering your eyes.
[ How to Find the End in Tangleweeds ]
Turn around three times. Pry open your eyes. Uncover your heart from those hands. Buck open your ribcage and let the dead stars fall out. The tangleweeds will open up your mouth. The tangleweeds will stuff your throat. The tangleweeds will find your end. They will find your end and drag it through your open and silent mouth. They will, and there will be no more water.
J. A. Tyler is the author of A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed, and his recent work has appeared with DIAGRAM, Black Warrior Review, Fourteen Hills, and New York Tyrant. This piece is an excerpt from the novel Water, forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2012. For more, visit: www.chokeonthesewords.com.
Volume 1, Issue 5
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