The leaves in the trees, one night—more leaves than there are stars in the sky, more leaves than there are eyes to look up at the night sky to see them with—one night, the leaves in the trees, one night, they all turn to fish. Fish. Trees. Fish in the trees. Fish. Some of the fish hang from their tails. Some hang from mouths that look as if they want to sing, hung wide with songs, songs that have not yet been sung. Some do not have heads at all: the heads, by who, have been chopped off. Still, these fish, yes, those with no heads, still they are fish, and still they hang there and there is still in them all a song for them to sing. Or not. Some of the fish, in their fish heads, have no eyes. Still these fish with no eyes, still they see. Each scale that shines is an eye. Each gill that they use to breathe, each gill, red with blood, is a hole to push out air through in song. These fish, they sing. They are not dead. Not the ones that hang by their tails. Not the ones that hang from their mouths. Not the ones with no head or no eyes. The trees, in the woods, with the fish in them, sing. Here the woods wake with song. Hear them sing. It is not the wind. The wind is like the sky. The sky is now an ear. The wind does not blow. The wind cups its hand round the ear that is the sky. Like this, to the sound of the fish in the trees, the wind hums. The wind hums and like this the fish in the trees move. In the fall, when the fish will fall, the boys will take them up in their arms, they will hold the fish up to their hearts. Some of the fish will come to be the boys’ skin. Some of the fish will feed the blood that runs through the boys’ veins. The boys grow big. They eat the fish that they let go of. They fry them in a pan that grows black with the flame that eats the wood that turns it to ash. The ash glows as they eat. The boys eat the eyes so at night they can see. At night they see what the fish can see. What they see and what they know is this: that the witch who lived in a house in the woods lives now in the lake, down where the big fish used to live. When the witch looks up, the top of this lake is a sky. In this sky a bird with one wing flies. It flies and it sings. It sings and it sings but no one hears it, no one knows what it wants to be told, though the fish in the lake rise up to it, to take a bite out of its song: its one wing is a sky, its one eye is a moon in this sky, its one eye is the sun that shines and shines, though no one but the fish in the trees can see it.
Peter Markus is the author of the novel Bob, or Man on Boat, as well as several other collections of short fiction, among them The Singing Fish, Good, Brother, We Make Mud, and The Fish and the Not Fish. His most recent book is a memoir, Inside My Pencil: Teaching Poetry in Detroit Public Schools. He lives in Michigan where he is the Senior Writer with InsideOut Literary Arts.