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I woke with my brother standing above me, a note in his hands, feeling nothing like deer-brothers. What happened was that I felt loss.

I built my fourth house in a cave in a mountain in the midst of these lost woods. A forest filled with foxes, a forest of bears, a forest with birds in flight. There were fish in the river, and we could see them, my deer-brother and I, as we dipped our antlers down into their pools.

When I was a child I built a paper airplane and my brother built a paper airplane and we flew our paper airplanes together out and into these trees. We curled their wings to create lift, we forked their tails, we found snakes nesting under boughs. With my brother we created a brotherhood that was the two of us, running. And then my brother had ten daughters and I had no love left and there was a forest I woke up in.

In these woods, being is without love.

In these woods there are branches like arms.

I did love but I loved the kind of love that brothers cannot parse. I spoke in a tongue that was more fish instead of deer. I ran back into the woods instead of running out of them. Or I slept when I should have woken up, or I threw out the bones and left nothing but skin, became a fox when I should have been a brother.

In these woods, love is of another kind.

I always wanted to hold ten sets of daughter-hands, my own and not these brother-daughters who are lovely though not mine. I wanted to see the forest come to an end, lost woods regaining ground. Instead I built houses. Worlds inside of worlds.

In these woods, myself and the kind of love that brothers can’t.

A bear crept into this fourth house, and I was standing in the darkness, an open knife, waiting to take guts in my fingers, to feel the warmth of once was living. In this fourth house in this cave in this mountain in these woods, smearing bear-blood on black walls, a brother mine-field in front of me.

I am in search of my deer-brother because I want to tell him what it means to be like this. I want him to see beneath my own deer-skin that there is a brother-core, that there are love-words and moments of sky unencumbered by clouds. I want my deer-brother to see his deer-brother, no matter. Instead it was a note of dying, the death he handed me, dear brother, and the lost woods always circling, fourth houses built and burned and built and burned.

In these woods, the always instead.

The bear who entered this fourth house, he pretended to be my brother. That bear he held open his chest and showed me the faux brother-heart that was beating there, said the name to me, called brother, brother, but there was no brother in that bear. There was blood. Mounds of blood. There was fur, skin, and a painting that was in his veins, that I scribbled on the walls of this house, this cave, in this darkness, where only brothers can see.

I wanted more bears, I wanted bear after bear, I wanted to open up the world and let it spill. There was no woman in front of me, no way of ten daughters that were mine. Instead only this lost forest, these lost woods, my brother’s ten daughters laid over my body, the closed spaces of this fourth house buried and then burned inside of a mountain.

In these woods I burn down everything that I don’t understand.

I built this fourth house in a cave inside a mountain. I picked out the space, rock by rock, carried in the trees, cut them to walls, stacked the walls against the cave’s skin, made there a house that I called my fourth house. And I left the doorway open as an invitation to bears who believe they are brothers, though I only had one to spread lovely on the walls of this.

In these woods, brother does not mean bear. Living is subjective.

I saw my dark painting only once, when I set the fourth house on fire, when it burned up. There was a moment when the cabin went bright, the cave showed itself and its ugly tendencies, before I burned, before the doorstep burned, before it was all dead again.

In these woods, I don’t believe in dying. My faith is in hapless bears who wander into the hearts of others. My hopes are in fish, in rivers, in the cleaning up of ash and soot from the bare of my feet. I hold out for an end to lost woods, though my deer-brother has not returned since then – just that initial note, that beginning to death, that pronouncement of dying.

In these woods, us standing too far from one another.

In these woods, deer-brothers come apart.

In these woods, there is this kind of brother-loss. In these woods, in these woods.