` decomP: a literary magazine




the vultures
By J. A. Tyler, Jul 03, 2009

Their shoulders hunch, bend over in the shape of what used to be my grandma, these vultures.

SHEíS IN THE BOX they tell me, one or the other of them, either way whispered way down like in secret, the passing of a kind of note, as they pretend to pray.

BUT WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHEN YOU DO IT I ask because it is important to me, to figure out what they are doing when asked or told to bow their heads and pray.


The vultures here, at our zoo, they sit on somehow white branches, more than white branches, sticks made to fit from the sides and ceiling of its cage down to the bottom.

We pray but I donít know what that means, to pray, so I hold and push my fingers together to see how numb they can get while everyone and me, we are supposed to be praying. My fingers tingling back up to the third knuckle. Their coming awake, its needling, pins. We pray.

The electric blanket on her bed is the thing I remember most, the way I was sat up on her bed when they said she was resting but I knew she was dying, and her bed was hot when I sat and I thought she was on fire.

My grandma, these vultures.

My mom she says looking at them lined in a row on their white branch, VULTURES ARE UGLY. I DONíT LIKE THEM. But I like them, they arenít mean or ugly I donít think, like my mom says, maybe just old or tired or resting.


When I thought she was on fire I moved my hand because I didnít want to burn up too, go to burning. And even then, resting or dying, my grandma, she laughed until she coughed and had to take deep breathes, breathe back in. I remember that, the electric blanket, my grandma on fire.

SHHHH one or both of them tell me, because this isnít the time where we talk or pray, this is the part where we listen and my mom and dad can tell when I tilt my head and my mouth opens that I am about to say something. I donít make a sound.

AMEN they all say without me but I didnít think we were praying.

Their beaks are meant for tearing dead meat, because the sign in front of their cage, their wire and their bars, it says they eat carrion, already dead animals it says, my dad reading it to me.

SHEíS DEAD I said out loud and probably shouldnít have, and they just look at me, the vultures in them, the carrion of the words I say and the noises I shouldnít make, moving my hand from grandmaís electric fire, dead now, in a box. I am not on fire.

J. A. Tyler is founding editor of mud luscious and the author of SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE (ghost road press, 2009), IN LOVE WITH A GHOST (willows wept press, 2010), and INCONCEIVABLE WILSON (vox press, 2010) as well as the chapbooks OUR US & WE (greying ghost), ZOO: THE TROPIC HOUSE (sunnyoutside), EVERYONE IN THIS IS EITHER DYING OR WILL DIE OR IS THINKING OF DEATH (achilles), and THE GIRL IN THE BLACK SWEATER (trainwreck press). Visit: aboutjatyler.com.