Once, once, when one of the fish that us brothers caught, fish that we lured and hooked and reeled in
and up on to our river’s muddy banks, this fish, it was so beautiful, it was such a lovely fish, its fish eyes moons, its fish scales glowey stars, that we could not get ourselves to kill and to cut off this fish’s head. We had never had any trouble cutting off the heads
of any fish before we did with this beautiful fish. Beauty, this fish,
this thing of beauty, it was messing with us brothers’ muddy heads, it was a rusty nail run through our muddy brother hearts.
So we decided to bring this fish home with
us, and there we ran a tub full of cold water in the bath room’s claw footed tub, and with our hands curled tenderly around the fish’s beautiful
white belly, we lowered this fish into this tubby river. In the tub, this fish kissed and bumped its nose against the walls. When the fish swam twice round the tub it stopped with its swimming and looked up at us brothers, us who were looking down at it, watching it tread water, marveling at fish with our eyes and fingers and with our mouths hanging quietly open, the way we do when we look up at the moon.
Mud, fish said, this word, mud, the sound of mud, bubbling up, in an unmuddy bubble. Muddy water, fish said to us
next, its mouth a blossoming flower, lips lifting up for a kiss.
Brother looked over at me and I looked over at Brother. Us brothers both knew, in our muddy hearts, our muddy heads, what it was that we had to do.
We ran ourselves down to the river, with a metal bucket, to fetch us, our fish guest, some mud, muddy water. We dug in with our hands into the mud. This bucket, we filled with mud. We
dumped the mud from the buck-et into the tub. The water turned a sudden and beautiful muddy brown. The fish looked up at us brothers, up from all this mud, up, and up, through the muddy water. A fish, at this
never looked more beautiful. Its eyes were unnamed planets. Each scale on fish’s slender body was a burning kiss left by a falling star. We bent down each of us on our right knee and reached in to touch the fish. You, come on, reach in and touch this fish. This fish is a thing you can touch
only once. Touch it twice and its beauty will banish you with beauty.
Each of us brothers, after a while, picked up the fish. And held it against our chests. We looked at each other. After we were done doing our looking,
without saying a word, we ran back down to the river. We kissed this fish goodbye. We threw fish back, into the muddy river, and the river, this beautiful river, this muddy river, this river, it kissed us brothers back.
(below) original artwork by Derek White, in response to Good, Brother by Peter Markus