The Sorrows of the Tin Woodman

As for you, my galvanized friend — you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one.     – the Man Behind the Curtain

When a tree falls in the forest,
and no one is around,
it sounds like a breaking ribcage.

I know. I was born
with an axe handle bolted
to my wrist.

When I met Dorothy,
I remembered what Technicolor
looked like. When her fingers
pressed like magnets on my
shoulderblades, I missed you.

I thought I could be human again
if I only had a heart.

Before the MGM lion roared,
my name was Nick Chopper. My father
held an axe like your bones hold
your skin. When other boys were
learning to split each others’ knees,
I was cutting the hearts out of
cherry trees. The axe in my fists
was already natural as scar tissue.

I found love like a pair
of ruby slippers at a crime scene.
Your rose garden was as red
as a kick to the chest.

For you, I laid my axe in the soil.

But I always knew it wasn’t
like that for you. You didn’t love
me enough to compromise.
I wasn’t disagreeable enough
for you to leave.

And I thought it was a
figure of speech when you
said Be a machine,
Nick. Machines don’t cry.
Just keep going.

But in the morning, when I
was out chopping wood in the forest,
my axe cartwheeled in my grip
and the first limb fell like a house
caught in a tornado. Everything
was normal, and then it was
gone, leaning against the broken
tree, bright red staining the wood
brown as a burning Valentine.

And thus, I was born.
Piece by gleaming tin piece. Nick Chopper
was grateful. I pretended to be
grateful for each new part.
I did not pretend to be in love.

I looked at you and I only
saw meat. Another warm machine
to break on my axe blade. Really,
what’s the difference between
a human being and a tree?
They’re born. They live. They
reproduce. They die. They
break easily. They drop their
defenses in rose gardens and
call it love.

Now, there is a cluster of
velvet and sawdust in my chest.
Nick Chopper is still dead.
I am still here,
and I never drop my axe.

Now I remember
why I never minded the echoes
before. Why Nick Chopper was
grateful when they forged this
metal smile onto my lips.

I remember why a human being
is not like a tree: it screams
when you cut off its limbs.

I will be here when the world ends,
chopping wood to keep the roaches
warm. I will be here when the sun
explodes, only to fall in love
with the inferno.

The thing about hearts is that
even after they break, they keep going.
I keep going.

I walked to the edge of the map
and stared out over the Yellow Brick Road.
How the velvet thing inside me
absorbs the echoes of my creaking joints,
how trees keep falling inside me now
and I never hear a sound.


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