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Literature

Prose garden ...

An MT Literary Quarterly exclusive - nationally acclaimed writer Peter Markus presents three unusual and enlightening lunar looks.

 

Published 11/3/1999

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The Moon is a Mirror

Sometimes, Girl slips her hands in through our bedroom’s window and pets my brother’s and my’s peach fuzz cheeks. When this happens, we try not to wake. If we wake, we make like we are still sleeping. Girl holds our sleepy heads in the palms of her mud cracked hands and rocks us to keep us sleeping. Sometimes, Girl sings. Some nights, Girl lifts us up and holds us to her chest, there where the treasure of her heartbeat is buried beneath her skin. There is a freckle there, a beauty mark, above Girl’s heart. It is shaped like an X. Dig here is what her heart tells us. We always listen. In the morning, we brothers awake with a mission. We get our father’s shovels and head on down to the river, to where Girl whispered to us that she would be waiting. She is. And we dig. We take turns digging. We dig until we get down to the bottom. There is this river there, and a sun, and a moon that is made out of mud. See the moon, Girl tells us, her mouth ripping its grin across the face of it. It is a mirror. Look inside. Inside are two girls. Sisters. One for each brother. Girl points this out. Us brothers take a look inside. We see the two sisters, twins. We give each of us brothers a look, a shrug, then we dive inside. The moon shatters into a billion pieces. Each broken chunk becomes a star.

The Moon is a Fish

Once, once, when one of the fish that us brothers caught, fish that we lured and hooked and reeled in and up onto 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 bathroom’s clawfooted 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.

The river.

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 bucket 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 moment, 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.

The Moon is a Magnet

We watch a tug chugging upriver towing a barge of wrecked cars squashed into boxy rectangles of steel. What with the way the sun is shining down on the scrunched up metal, it makes it look like each car is a Christmas present all decked out with silver wrapping paper and tinsel piled up high beneath a pine needleyed tree. We say we don’t know where the tug is taking the steel when Girl asks us the question. Up river’s all we know, up around the bend in the river where we used to watch them take the huge ladle vats of molten steel and separate the good metal from the slag. Our father told us slag was bad. Sounds like it, was what I said, and we all at the same time visored our arms and hands out in front of our brows to keep our eyes from being hard boiled by so much light.

That same night, as if guided by the voices of stars, we see the boxed up metal float by like floes of ice, or the bloated up bodies of the drowned, shining and bobbing, up and down, in this late night hour of make no wake. You’d think metal would sink, Brother says.

Shish, I say, to Brother.

I cup my hand up around my ear.

What? Brother says.

Listen, I say.

Brother says again, What?

I thought I heard something, I say.

Girl whispers, The moon is a magnet.

We both turn to look up at Girl.

Look, Girl says.

Girl’s face is shining brightly metallic in the moon’s silvery magnetic light.

She points up at the moon.

The sky is a river filled with floating knives and forks, junkyard cars and rusty bottomed tugs, our father’s lunch bucket, rising silently above the earth.

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