Attn: Butchers & Locksmiths by Joel Hans

Which bone of mine opens the door back home?

A. My malleus, timpani that first percussed with my mother’s voice,

B. my hyoid, anchor that dredged up all my boldest words, like I love you and I’ll always be here for you and pee makes the trees die,

C. my femur, hammering me around the track’s last corner, the crowd cheering, my mouth a tinderbox of pennies and phlegm,

D. or my phalanx, showing my girls how to pluck notes from a sunflower’s sunbaked head?

E. My vomer, bearing the smell of eager apples penduluming in a high desert orchard,

F. or my stapes, dithering even now to the confidence of toddlers with too-few teeth chomping down on golden carrots still dressed in dirt?

G. Nothing, because I’m too old, the magic of childhood lost as my bones fused together,

H. or nothing, because a door opens only upon receipt of what I’m not willing to sacrifice?

I. My calcaneus, the pain of stepping on toy blocks in the carpet at night,

J. my mandible, the pain of tasting bitterness in the citrus I took out a mortgage just to try,

K. or my radius, the pain of forgetting to remember the last time I held my last child,

L. or my ethmoid, the pain of having not come home sooner from this trip far, far, to the end of the world,

M. or my carpals, the pain of letting them hurt me just so I could hear their apologies, touch their whole cheek, back when they were young, their bones so soft and malleable and full of magic?


Joel Hans has published short stories in West Branch, No Tokens, Puerto del Sol, The Masters Review, Redivider, and others. He holds an MFA from the University of Arizona and previously served as the managing editor of Fairy Tale Review. He lives in Tucson, Arizona with his family.