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    on the 5ives




Editor's Note—Fourteen stories distinct but not separate. We've winnowed this sampling of the brothers from a series numbering close to infinite, going as far as to scavenge spark plugs and a carburetor from our literary neighbors to make it go. It was worth it. You can take them one at a time but the house recommends putting on a pot of coffee—a weak instant you need a pound of sugar in to flavor it up—and scroll top to bottom until your eyes bleed. Or, print out a copy and sit beneath that walnut tree in your grandma's back yard and spend a lazy Sunday dreaming of brothers and mud. The one thing to remember is that it starts with a river and ends with a river. Enjoy.


good, brother

We used to take the fish we'd catch out of this dirty river that runs through this dirty river town and we used to cut off those still glistening with silver scaled heads and we used to nail them, those heads, to the creosoted pole out back behind our yard. We'd hammer nails into those cold water eyed heads and make for ourselves what my brother and me used to call our back yard fishing pole. We did not stop fishing for and catching and nailing those fish heads into wood until the day our father came home from work and told us we were leaving. When our father told us we were leaving, he meant it, we were leaving for good: our dirty river, our dirty town. We did not want to leave, my brother and me. We did not want to leave behind the town or the river or the fish headed telephone post the two of us brothers turned into a back of the yard fishing pole out back behind the wood tool shed where our father kept his hammers and his saws and his cigar boxes full of rusty, bent back nails and his nuts and bolts and screws and those bottles half filled with whiskey.
      At night, from our bedroom window, my brother and me could look outside and see those fishes's marbly looking eyes looking back all walleyed out from the sides of their chopped off heads. The biggest of the big lipped fish looked like they might leap out and bite the hand left dangling over the side of a boat. We gave each of the fish heads each a name. In the end there were exactly a hundred and fifty fish heads named, each with its own name. Not one was called Jimmy or John.
      Jimmy and John was my brother's and my real name. We called each other Brother.
      Our father called us brothers Son. When our father hollered out Son, the both of us brothers would turn back our heads. We both knew, we were crossing this river together.
      Our mother called us both her dirty little boys. We boys were made, our mother liked to say, in the spitting image of our father. We did not like it much when our mother told us brothers to wash the mud from off of our boots.
      We liked mud and those dirty river smells that smelled of fishing and worms. We did not like it when our mother made us wash our hands to rid ourselves of those fishy river smells. We liked the way the fish's silver fish scales stuck to and glittered sparkly in our hands. At night, we liked to hold our hands up to the moonlight shining into our bedroom window. It looked like our hands had been dipped in stars.
      But our mother and our father both were sick and tired of living in a town with a dirty river running through it and with river winds that always smelled of fish. Our mother said she wanted to go somewhere, anywhere is the word she used, so long as anywhere was west of here. West where? was what our father wanted to know. And what our mother said was West of all this muddy water. Somewhere, our mother said, where there's not so much mud and rusted steel. There's a bigger sky, our mother wanted us to know. There's a sky, our mother told us. There's a sky not stunted by smokestacks and smoke.
      We couldn't picture a sky bigger than the sky outside our back yard. We did not want to imagine a town without a dirty river running through it where we could run down to it to fish. Us brothers, we did not want to run or be moved away from all this smoke and water and mud.
     We didn't know what we were going to do, or how we were going to stay, until we looked outside and saw our fish. The fish heads were looking back at us, open eyed, open mouthed, and it was like they were singing to us brothers. We climbed outside through our bedroom's window. Only the moon and stars were watching us as we walked out to our father's tool shed and dug out his hammers and a box of rusty, bent back nails. We each of us grabbed a hand full of nails and a hammer in each of our hands and walked over to our fish headed fishing pole. Brother, I said to Brother, you can go first.
      Give me your hand, I told him. Hold your hand up against this wood.
      Brother did like I told.
      We were brothers. We were each other's voice inside our own heads.
      This might sting, I warned, and then I raised back that hammer and I drove that rusty nail right through Brother's hand.
      Brother didn't even wince, or flinch with his body, or make with his mouth a sound of a brother crying out.
      Good, Brother, I said.
      I was hammering in another nail into Brother's other hand when our father stepped out into the yard.
      Son, our father called out.
      Us, our father's sons, turned back our heads toward the sound of our father.
      We waited to hear what it was our father was going to say to us next.
      It was a long few seconds. The sky above the river where the steel mill stood like some sort of a shipwreck was dark and quiet. Somewhere, I was sure, the sun was shining.
      You boys remember to clean up before you come back in, our father said.
      Our father turned back his back.
      Us brothers turned to face each other.
      I raised back the hammer.
      I lined up that rusted nail.


what even the river can't wash away

What us brothers always remember, our earliest memories, back from way back when, is our mother forever wanting to wash the mud off our father's boots: our mother scrubbing at the crusted mud with stiff, steel wire brushes, or stabbing at the caked in dirt dried hard on the boot bottoms, this with a screw driver, or knife, or sometimes a rusty razor blade, us watching this all: the hosing off, the dunking of the boots into a bucket of sudded, muddy water, the wiping of them down, our mother buffing the boots dry till they became boots that shined brand new. Us brothers liked to watch because we did not understand why it was our mother would want to wash mud off our father's boots, especially when the very next day what our father was going to do was walk through more mud again. We did not get it why our mother would want our father's boots to be unmuddied. Our boots, on us brothers, they would not be the boots that they were, to us brothers, without the mud that was on them that made them ours. Our boots were more mud than they were boot. Our father's boots, much like ours, his were not boots that were brand spanking new. They were old. They were boots that our father wore, day in and day out-at night too-when he was working, and even when he wasn't. When our father wasn't at work, what our father was usually doing was walking through mud to work his way down to the muddy river, to get to where he and us brothers—us his sons-liked to fish. Our father was the kind of man who liked to walk through mud when there was mud nearby to walk through. Our town was a muddy river town, with a muddy river running through it. Mud, us brothers liked to say, it was in our blood. It was a river that ran through our veins. But our mother. Our mother was the only one of us who did not love mud. Our mother, what it all boils down to: she just didn't get mud. She was always trying to get us brothers to take off our boots outside. She'd holler out Stop! if you started walking into her kitchen with your boots still laced up on your feet. To us brothers our mother yelled out Stop! more than alot. Our mother was a traffic light standing always at the door. Her mouth, our mother's, it was a hole in her head that liked to flash red. But enough said about our mother. What us brothers want to talk about now is our father's boots. Our father's boots, on a raining night, with our father walking in them, walked into the kitchen tracking in newly made mud. Our mother, when she saw coming in our cover all covered father all covered over with rain and mud, she did her stop light song and dance. But our father kept right on walking in. He did not stop walking in until he had walked all the way through the house and out the front door, where he kept on walking, on his way down to the river, the mud on his boots lighting the way. Us brothers ran out after our father, calling out for him to Stop! Wait up! and with our fists raised towards the sky, Way to go! But our father, if he heard us brothers or not, he did not stop or turn back around. What our father did was he kept walking. He kept on walking until he was all the way down to where the river begins. And he did not stop walking there. No, but what our father did was he walked out into the river, as if he was expecting to walk on the river, as if the river was a road that he was walking across it to get to the other side. Here again, our father did not look back, he did not turn back around, he did not stop walking out when his sons hollered out to him to, Stop! Wait for us! We stopped walking and we stood on the edge of the river and we watched the muddy river water rise up to meet our father. Our father, in our father's muddy boots, sinking down, down to the river's muddy bottom, where us sons can't help but imagine that he kept right on a walking, walking until the river's bottom, and the water up above it, turned into sky.



We knew this other boy in town who was brother to nobody-an only child with only a mother and a father and no brother to call his own. So we took him in as brother. We did not call him brother though. We called him Boy. Boy was littler than us brothers. Boy was born years-no, centuries-after we were born. We were down by the river with our fishing man father the day that this other brother was born into this world. This boy, this brother, we were told, was born with teeth and a full head of hair. What he was not born with, we discovered, was a tongue. This boy's mouth was a hole in his face he fed food into. Once in a while we might hear some mouthy sounds grunting out. For the most part, though, Boy was silent. Some of the time we did not even know he was near, standing close by, his feet-flopping inside his father's boots-sunk into the river, ankles deep in the river's mud. At times, Boy was more dog than he was a boy. Boy was a dog who always came whenever we called, to do whatever was told. Us brothers taught Boy more than a few tricks. We taught Boy how to walk on water. It is true that Boy drowned the first time he walked out. Boy floated face down down the river. But then he walked upriver back. Back to us brothers. Good dog, we told Boy. We scratched Boy's back. We pulled a bone out from Boy's hand and tossed it to the river. Boy, we told him. Go fish. Boy took to the water like he was part dog, part fish. Then Boy swam back to the river's muddied bank and flopped down on the shore. Like a fish. This boy here is a keeper, Brother said. If you say so, I said to Brother. And then we chopped off this boy's head.


the river is a dirt road

One night we take our father's hanging up work clothes-his mud muddied coveralls, his checker board shirts, his stiff with mud work gloves, his mud bottomed working boots with the steel of the toe of them shining through-and we go with these left behind things bundled up in our arms down to the dirty river that runs through this dirty river town. And down at this river's muddy edge we drop these things that used to be our father's down into this mud: we drop these mud crusted worker boots, we drop those mud covered coveralls, and then we drop down ourselves into the mud, and down on our hands and knees us brothers, we take up our hands full of this freshly made river made mud and we stuff this oozey mud into the insides of our father's going to work things: we pack this mud inside where our father used to put the parts of his body inside, back when he used to have to pull on these mill bibs of his up and over his arms and his chest and legs and then reach down to lace up those chunky boots. And once these things are things now stuffed up to the gills of them with mud, what us brothers do with these mud stuffed up things is we toss them into the river: we throw them the way we do it to a fish too small for the skillet, out and back and in, into the river's muddy waters, and then we stand there on the river's muddy shore and watch-watch us as we do this watching-what looks like it is our father, but really this is what we have left of our father, float on down the river out to where we know there is a lake out there, somewhere, where this river comes to an end. Though after awhile even this, these things that were our father's, that skin of him we so often watched as he walked away, his face turned back to us brothers on his walk to work: even these things of his disappear too soon from our seeing. We stand there and watch those boots with the mud inside them sink down and be swallowed like an anchor or a cinder block or a big chunk of busted up concrete sinks down and it is gone away from our eyes. Our father's coveralls, at first, they looked like they might just slowly float away without sinking, but these too, it doesn't take long: it takes just a little longer than our father's other things for the weight of the mud to pull them under to where the bottom of river is: down where the ghost of our father, bare footed and boot less now, a mud covered man ghost, he walks through this under the river mud: the mud between his toes, he tells us brothers, it's like walking on water, is what he says: or like crossing across a muddy dirt road.


we make mud

We make Girl.
     We make Girl down by the river out of the river's mud. Here, where river water meets earth to make mud we make Girl. We start at the bottom and make our way up. Her knees are especially muddy. They make us want to remain forever kneeling. We can barely stand to look Girl straight in the eye. She is that muddy. Her eyes and her hair and her skin, too, all the color of mud.
     We love mud.
     Mud, we can never get enough of.
     Girl is pure mud. Even her heart is made out of mud. Her mud heart drums inside her mud chest. It is a drum. It is a drum made out of mud. If you close your eyes, you can see it. It's shaped like a moon and pumps mud instead of blood. If you cup your hand around your ear, like a seashell, you can hear it, Girl's mud made heart, beating behind her mud ribbed ribcage, a hand full of bony bones rattled and rolled about by the hammering fist of God.
     When it rains Girl calls out to us to come save her. When it rains we bring Girl inside, into our bedroom. We tuck her into bed, kneel by her side.
     If it looks as if we are saying our prayers, look again. We watch Girl sleep.
     In the morning we each take turns kissing Girl on her lips, to breathe her back into this other life.
     Girl is our sister.
     Our parents think we are just two brothers. They think we are sisterless.
     Girl is all ours.
     We made her.
     She began as mud.
     She began as mud but became a girl when we gave her her name. We named her Girl because that's what she looked like: girl. Girl, we said. And the name stuck like a stick stuck in the mud.
     We took a stick and spelled Girl's name in the mud down by the edge of the river.
      It looked good in mud.
     Girl's mud body shined like something made brand new in the moonlight.
     See Girl standing down by the river in the river made mud. Girl was made naked.
     Brother pointed this out.
     Yeah, I said. So?
     Brother said, She needs some clothes.
     Who says? I said.
     Said Brother, Maybe she's cold.
     Are you cold? I asked Girl.
     Girl didn't say anything.
     Brother left and when he came back he was holding in his arms a bag full of girl clothes.
     I asked him where he found those.
     From our mother's closet, he said.
     I looked at Brother.
     There was this look that us brothers had between us.
     It was a look that actually hurt the eyes of the brother who was doing the looking.
     Imagine that look.
     Where else was I supposed to look?
     I didn't know.
     I took back the look.
     We got Girl dressed.
     We pulled our mother's skin over Girl.
     Even so, Girl was still beautiful.
     Girl's body shined, like wet mud, from beneath our mother's cottony clothes.


our father's shed, where our father keeps his tools, the rusty buckets & muddy shovels, the nuts & bolts & nails & screws, bottles half-filled with whiskey

This shed, it's not made out of mud: it's made out of wood, what our father likes to call lumber, and us brothers, our father's sons, we like the way that word lumber sounds when it lumbers out of his, out of our father's, mouth. On our father's tongue, this word, lumber, when it comes lumbering out, it sounds even heavier than lumber itself. Hand me up that lumber, our father says to us his sons. He says, Hand me my hammer. Us brothers, we do what our father tells us. We take our father's hammer into our boy hands and we hand our father this hammer. Then we step back and watch our father cock back with his hammering hand and then we watch him hammer in his other hand, his nail holding hand, into the wood. When that rusted, bent back nail goes through his hand and into the lumber that is right behind it, our father doesn't even flinch, or wince, or make with his mouth the sound of a father crying out. What our father does do with his mouth is he says to us his sons who are doing this watching, This wood is good wood. This is a good piece of lumber, he says, and he sucks in on the second rusted nail that is pinched in the corner of his mouth. Now it's your turn, he turns, and says this to us brothers, and he spits out this bent back nail. Us brothers, we look across at each other, we glance down at the nail that's here on the dirt in between us, we gaze up at our father's hammered in hand, his fingers flared out like the gill plates and spiky fins of a still live fish when we stick in the knife to gut it. What we see are rivers and rivers criss crossing in the palm of his hand, blossoming out from the head of this rusted nail: all of these rivers running red. We both know, us brothers do, we are crossing this river together. We reach up and put our hands on top of our father's, and we hold him here in this place.


what we do with the fish after we gut the fish

We eat the fish.
     Our mother fries up the fish in a cast iron skillet that spits up buttery fish fried grease every time she drops a bread crumb battered fish fillet into the pan. We sit at the kitchen table in front of our empty plates and listen to the pop and pizz and sizzle of the frying up fish. Just yesterday these fish were swimming in the muddy waters of our muddy river and now they are gutted and headless and chopped in half and about to be swallowed into our open mouths, our empty bellies. Our father is outside, in the shed, sharpening his knives. When all the fish have been fried up hard to a crisp shucked golden colored brown, our mother will tell us brothers to call in our father to come inside to eat the fish. Fish on, we will tell him. Come and get them while they're good and hot. Our father comes when we call. He tracks mud into our mother's kitchen. Our mother tells him look what you've done. He looks down at his boots and says the word mud. Our mother throws up her hands and then she throws the skillet of fried up fish at our father. The fish skid across the kitchen floor. Our father tells her that he and us sons caught and cleaned out the guts of those fish. Our mother tells our father he knows what he can do with those fish. Then she tells us how she hates fish and fish smells, how she hates this fishy river, how much she hates this fishy, smelly town. Leave, our father says to this. Our mother says maybe she will. They both turn and walk away, our father back outside, our mother into hers and our father's bedroom. Us brothers are left with the fish, are left to clean up the mess. We drop down onto our hands and knees onto the floor and begin to eat.


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 heart beat 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 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.
     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 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 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 lighthouse: revisited

Our mother, underneath her breath, breathing so that us brothers can barely hear it, breathes, Bring me your river. We figure this, if only this, it is a thing us sons can get ourselves to do. So we shove our mother's bed over to where the bedroom window is a box of muddy light for our mother to look outside. Outside this window's pane, we can see it is raining. It's been raining so long now that we have run out of fingers for us to count the days on. This rain, it might never give up, we have given ourselves to this believing. It might never stop. This is all right with us, for it's a good rain that makes for good mud making. And this, making mud, it is a thing us brothers can't never get enough of. But the moon. Brother, but the moon is another story. The moon is nowhere to be, by us brothers, seen. It is a brand new baseball lost in the bushes, or batted into some old man's back yard, broken through a garage's window. Or else it's a dog's bone buried in a back yard place we cannot get back to, the hole once dug now covered over and grown smooth, with mud. See the river, we say, to mother, and sit her body up, our bodies two pillows stuck behind her back. I can't see it, she says, her eye shades all a flitter, the rainy light, dull as it is, to our mother's eyes, to moons used to only the dark: to her, this light is kisses, it is knives. The sky, we say to her next. Look at the sky. The sky, we say, it is a river. And the stars, the stars are the glowing eyes of fish. And the moon? our mother asks, catching us, her sons, off guard. The moon, we say, it is a lighthouse. And we are all us here living inside.


star girl

We go down to the river. We go down just before dark to watch for falling stars. The sky always darkens over the river first. Just after dark, Girl tells us, is the best time to catch a star that's falling. If Girl says this is so, this is so. Look behind us, west of us, see the sky still holding on to light. The star in the west we call the sun. Girl calls it sister. Slowly the stars begin to take to the sky, each star is looking out a window curtained by day, shut to keep out its distant cousin, the sun. See that spoony shaped thing there, Girl tells us. We look to where her pointy finger points. I call that Table Spoon. And that littler one over there, she says, that's its little brother. I call him Tea. I use Tea to stir up my morning cup of muddy river coffee. Table, Girl says, I use to sip my bowl of muddy river soup for lunch. What about those stars way up there? Brother asks, looking straight up. Dust, Girl says. The sky is a house. Sometimes it gets dusty and dirty, muddy too. Star, Girl! I cry out hard. There! I point to where there is a smudge of fire smearing the sky. It is a burning matchstick, a still lit cigarette flicked out the window of a speeding car. I try to picture the hand that threw this star. To imagine something bigger than Girl. I can not. What I can see is this. I see Girl reach her right hand up into the sky. I see Girl catch this star from its falling. See Girl take this starry star and hold it against her thigh, until it burns, until it leaves its mark.


our father who walks on water comes home with two buckets of fish

This is our father we are watching. We watch our father walk on water. He is walking across it: our father is crossing this dirty river that runs through this dirty river town: our father is coming back now from the river's other side. We see that he has, hanging from his each of his muddy hands, a muddy bucket. When it is us, his sons, that he sees are the ones doing the watching, our father walks up to face us. He sets down those muddy buckets onto the ground. We look down at those buckets. When we look down inside the buckets, we see they are both filled up to the rusted brim with fish. Supper, our father says. We shadow him back home, us brothers, his sons, mudding through the mud, walking in the tracks of our father's muddy boots. When we get home, we watch our father walk into the kitchen without first taking off his muddy boots. We do like our father. We walk inside, with our boots still on. The floor, with mud all over it, has never looked so shiny. Mother, our father barks out. He calls to her her name. We don't say anything about our mother. We go and fetch a frying pan out of the cupboard and put it on the stove. Our father sees us and gets a knife to gut the fish with. Maybe he figures that our mother is out shopping. Our father takes the fish out of the buckets and goes at them with this knife: he cuts off first the head, tail next, then he sticks the rusted blade inside. We watch our father claw two fingers in and slide them inside. What is inside the fish comes slushing out onto the floor. We fry the fish up hard in sputtering hot margarine, what our father always called lard. It's good to be back home, our father says. He howls out for our mother to come eat. He gets no answer, only the hollowed out echo of an empty house. He keeps on eating. We keep on eating. We do not say a thing about our mother. After we are done with the eating, it is us brothers who do the cleaning up. We take what's left off of our plates and we scrape what's left into the trash. The dirty dishes, slick with lard, we pile these into the sink. The parts of the fish that we do not eat-the guts, the heads, the bones-these we take outside, out to the back yard. The guts, the tails, these we bury, in holes that us brothers dig. The heads, with the eyes still staring out of them, we hammer these into the creosote coated telephone pole that's in the back of our back yard. It's the sound of us doing this hammering that brings our father outside. When he asks of us where is your mother, one of us whispers fish, and the other one of us mutters moon. To this, our father nods, then he heads back down in the direction of the river. And without so much as a word or a wave good bye, we watch our father walk back across the river to the river's other side, walking and walking and walking on, until he's nothing but a sound the river sometimes makes when a stone is skipped across it.


where the fire is

This is what we want you to see: see the two of us brothers out on our dirty river, this river rusty with mud, us on a rusty bottomed row boat made out of steel. This boat, it is a boat that our father once told us wasn't fit to float sardines. We are not minnowy little fish. We are big muddy boys. We are a couple of muddy brothers out on a rusty boat that's drifting sideways down a mud rusty river: two mud boys floating between two worlds. It's only the mud of the river now that is holding us up. For all us brothers know, or all we care, this river, it could be sky. No, this is not some kind of dream. No, when the two of us brothers dream, we dream of mud and Girl. Girl, she is right now somewhere where our eyes cannot see. But over there, wherever Girl is, the sun, it is sure to be shining. The sun, right now, it is not shining here on us. Over our heads, in this sky that is a river all bottom stirry with mud and clouds, zig zags of light, axes of lightning, chain saws of it, busted bicycle chains of it, razor down from the sky to light trees and leaning pole barns on fire—white jags of light slashing down to ignite all of those things made out of steel: golf clubs, baseball bats, town water towers, smokestacks, electrical poles, boats up on land and boats out on water. Our boat, with the two of us brothers on it, we are out on water. Yes, we are out on water but we are surrounded by, we are brothers about to be swallowed by, sky. This sky above, the whole river of it, where only moments ago we could still see blue, it is now nothing but, it's now every bit of it, mud. When we look up, we could be looking up from underneath the ground, two earth worms testing the mud to see if it is raining. When the rains start to hammer on down upon us brothers, buckets of it, barrels of it, whole big ore boats of it raining down, our boat, which had up to now been filled up to the gunnels of it with fish-the silver fish bodies glinting the color and shine of newly made metal-our boat, it is filling up, it is fastly flowing over first from the rain water and then with river water and then we, us brothers, and our boat, we begin to sink. Our fish float out and away back down the river-a basket of birds released into the sky. Us brothers, we are up to our ankles, we are up to our knee bones, when we wave good bye to these get away fish and get it in our heads to run. We run on top of water, through rain and river, across the water we run. See us brothers running run: running to reach the river's muddy shore: us brothers running to out run the rivers of light zig zagging down, veins of it, spikes of it spiking the earth, the dirt, the river, the steel: bent back nails of hammering light, seeking us brothers out, us brothers, us who cry out to the sky above, come and try to get us! This, we dare to dare this, with our fists raised to whatever is up there listening: running towards those places where the light has lit up all that is dark: two brothers running to see which brother will get there first: running until we run ourselves out of breath: running until the light gets its bead of lightning over both of our boy heads. Boy are we starting to feel it now: see how the hair on our head stands up at a bristle so that it might get a closer look. We stop and we turn so that our eyes might get a good look at it, too-the way the sky swings its hammer right above our heads. We stop and we turn and we reach out with our hands. Us brothers, the both of us know, this won't hurt a bit. We hold out our hands, the rivers there, our knuckles, our palms, filled with singing fish. We open our eyes wide and we listen to this song. It is a song that says let me hold your hand. We look around looking for Girl. We see a cloud in the sky that is the shape of a hand. It is a hand. It is a hand that us brothers, we watch it reach down to take hold of us by the wrist. We do not try to do anything to wrestle our hands free. We hold our hands wide open, with our fingers flared out and wriggling, the backs of our hands backing up, all the way up, back against the back drop of sky. Our hands against the sky makes a sound that knuckles make when they knock on wood. What sound we hear next is not the sound of thunder or of rain water running down a roof. It is the sound of a voice saying coming. Us boys turn around to face where this sound is coming from. What we see, when we turn back to see it, is half the sky: it is opening up: it is a door. Who is it? we then hear us being asked. It is us, is all us brothers have to say. It is Girl's voice, we can tell, who is the one doing the asking, and Girl's hand that is the hand that is opening up this door. Come in, she tells us. Get out of the rain. You're sopping wet. We do what Girl tells us to do. We come in out of the sopping rain. There is a fire burning in the fireplace: there is soup simmering on the stove. Our mother, she is sweeping the wood floor with a sun flower. She looks over at us sons and smiles. She looks almost beautiful, happy, with the sun, the sun flower, in her hands. We come inside, brother followed by brother, water rivering down our backs. Our boots, wet and muddy, we take them off and set them by the door. Then we run over to where the fire is and we throw ourselves in.


good, brothers

We come home one day after being gone all day long fishing for fish in the river only to find standing inside of our house people other than us. There is a mother other than our mother, there is a father other than our father-there are two boys in our house who are brothers other than us. Our mother and our father both turn their faces to face the sounds us brothers are making when we come boots bursting into our house, in through the back door, and what they say, our mother and our father, not to us but to this other family other than us is, these are our two boys. Who are they? is what us brothers say to what we see standing inside our house. This other family, this other mother and this other father and these two brothers other than us, they look almost too much like us to be us; it could be us looking into some sort of a mirror. But they are not us, and we are not them, and what our father says to us, to our question, who are they? is, he says to us, his sons, that this is the family that might be moving into this house. This is our house, Brother points this out. There's not room enough for all of us inside of this house. That's true, our mother says to this, and for the first time in a long time, she is actually smiling. Which is why, our mother tells us, if Mr. and Mrs. Haskins decide that they want to buy our house from us, then we'll have to find some other house for us to live in. We like this house, us brothers say to this. Let them find some other house to live in. Maybe this is a bad time, the other mother says to our mother. The other father says to our father that maybe it would be better if they came back another time. Our mother shakes her head. Our father nods his and says yes, that he'll call them later. When our father says this, our mother shoots our father this look across the space that is between them. It's a look that could, with just one look, turn a muddy river into dirt and ice. Boys, our mother says to us, looking this look down to us, what do you say you take the Haskins' boys outside to look at your fish. Us brothers stand across from and we stare into the eyes of those boys who are brothers not to us. All four of us brothers, us staring across our house at each other, to our mother saying that word fish, we each of us boys nod with our heads yes. That sounds good to us, us brothers say. Outside, we go with these two other boys out to the back of our back yard, to show them what our mother meant to say when she said that word fish. Fish? What kind of fish? is what these brothers ask us. Our fish, is what we tell them, and we lift our hands up to get these boys to see our back yard telephone pole that is studded with the hammered in heads of fish. We had a river once, one of these boys says to this, his head still tilted up. Our river, it was a real good river for catching fish. Our river is the muddiest river ever made, is what us brothers tell these boys. So, what are you gonna do? is the thing that these brothers want to know. How, we hear these brothers saying to us, are you gonna get them to stay? We look at these brothers. We look at them the way that we look at our fish. After a while, when we are done looking at these two brothers, us brothers, we give each other this same sort of a look. Brother's the brother of us who walks away from this look. He is going, only I know, to get what we need to get us to stay. I am the one of us brothers who stays where I am standing. I am facing into the faces of the other two brothers. I tell them to stand right here, with your backs backed against the pole, your faces facing the river. We'll show you the river, I tell them, just as soon as I get back. I go to where Brother is standing, with a hammer dangling from each one of his hands. When we get back, these other brothers, they are right where we left them, right where we told them to stay, with their backs and boot heels backed up against our fish headed pole. Good, brothers, is what us brothers say to these boys. Now give us your hands, we tell them. These brothers do what we say. We are brothers, after all; these boys are more than just boys. Now this might sting, we tell them, and we take each of these brothers each by his hand and we hold them up to the pole's wood. Both of these brothers take the nail to their hand. Like a brother. They don't wince, or flinch with their bodies, or make with their mouths the sounds of a brother crying out. Good, brothers, we say this to them again. We are both of us brothers both of us getting ready to hammer a second nail into these other brothers' other hands when our mothers and our fathers, all four of them, step out into the back of our back yard. Sons, our fathers call us out. All four of us boys, all of us brothers, we turn back our heads toward the sound of our fathers. It's time to come home, we hear our mothers say. Us boys, brothers, turn back to face each other. Up above us, in this sky above the river, in this sky over the mill, the moon, it is just now beginning to rise and shine. In the light of this light, us brothers, we raise back our hammers. We line up those rusted nails.



Good, Brother previously appeared in Black Warrior Review

What We Do With The Fish After We Gut The Fish previously appeared in New Orleans Review

The Moon Is A Lighthouse: Revisited previously appeared in New Orleans Review

We Make Mud previously appeared in Barnabe Mountain Review

Our Father Who Walks On Water Comes Home With Two Buckets Of Fish previously appeared on