from The Labyrinth

I am born at the labyrinth’s entrance. My blood mixes with the dirt until there is a large dark circle. My body feels raw, scrubbed skinless. My bones grow and my muscles grow and I am able to walk. My mother shackles my left foot to a stake in the ground and my father shackles my right foot. I am able to move in a twelve-foot radius. I am able to pace the entrance but not enter. For many hours each day my mother takes my left hand and my father takes my right and they pace the labyrinth’s entrance with me. They are mostly silent. I forget what their voices sound like until one of them finally speaks. Often I look at the wrong one first. My mother reminds me to wash my hair or brush my teeth or change my underwear. My father reminds me to eat plenty of eggs, to eat enough fruits and vegetables, to drink plenty of fluids. They are each wearing business suits and I am naked. When they leave it is because my sister is somewhere being born. When they leave it is because my sister is somewhere needing to be fed. When they leave it is because my sister needs to be picked up from school, from our grandparents’ house, from her babysitting job, from the morgue where she identifies her brother’s body.

Joshua R. Helms is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama and an assistant editor for Black Warrior Review. His work appears or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, elimae, and PANK Magazine.