POETRY April 1, 2022

From “Let the Question Die, Then Bloom”

Pretend the fish are alive.
Pretend our town is a hospital
and it’s very clean.
Pretend the sun is in the river
and the fish come from the sun, okay.
Pretend the bells are the sound
the sun makes underwater and shining.
Pretend you are my baby
but I am a bell so you are like
my little bell baby and I take
really good care of you here.
Pretend we live underwater
and don’t know what doctors
or judges or birthday cakes are.
Pretend the mud smells like birthday cake
and it’s your birthday, okay.
Pretend I’m singing to you.
Pretend sprinkles. Pretend smile.
Pretend you are born here
really small and happy.

Sometimes I forget about me.
Like my mom will call my name
and I’ll think, that’s a name,
that’s a lady calling a name.
But forgetting right before
you remember again
is different from not ever knowing.
Like my mom says the fish all
have one name, but I say not really
because that’s a people-name,
not a fish-name. Even though
forgetting for a minute
is not the same as not knowing,
I have this secret game
where when I forget I like
thinking I’m a fish, too.

Pretend you don’t know any words.
Okay, now what do you know?
Haha! Trick question!
Okay, yes, dancing is good.
And eating. And sleeping.
I think I would be sad
without words because you
couldn’t say to me I love you.
Hugging isn’t the same
because you can’t hear it
over and over in your head.
I wonder what fish hear in the air.
Like to humans I love you
underwater sounds like ahhblublOOO.
What does air sound like?
Like fire? Like bells?

I don’t really know what death is
but neither does anybody else
I don’t think. I don’t like the word mystery
because everyone on TV’s always
solving those. What’s the word for something
no one solves but people still do it all the time
—music? Dreaming? My dreams
never have music, but if they did I’d pick
whatever it is astronauts listen to
when they’re the farthest away
anyone’s ever been. When
I wake up, I’ll sing it for you.

If I could ask the rain anything
I would ask, why are you the story
people tell one another to be sad?
And where does the sad come from?
And where do you come from?
Is it beautiful there, too?

Katherine Indermaur is the author of “Facing the Mirror: An Essay” (Seneca Review Books, 2022) and two chapbooks. She is an editor for Sugar House Review and the recipient of prizes from Black Warrior Review and the Academy of American Poets. Her writing has appeared in Coast|noCoast, Frontier Poetry, New Delta Review, the Normal School, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Colorado State University.