Poetry: works from Fishman
by Charles Fishman

In the Woods, 1951

I remember how the light pawed down

through densely tangled branches

and how the narrow creek jangled

over its scatter of burnished stones

worn to a smoothness in the cold churn

of water. The day began when school ended

and our feet sank into fern banks

and leaf-mulch or squelched in bog-holes

of aromatic muck. We leapt over moss-

crushed oaks white-barked paper birches

climbed wind-sheared hickories and beeches

and, in the green drench of summer,

swam naked in our garden. In that clear water

that granted every pardon, we gashed our hearts

and came up gasping, the afternoon sun

encircling our foreheads with tendrils of molten gold.

We heard drums in the leaf-tops that spoke of endings,

yet we lived as if time was not our master, as if

we were kings of the forest and not its slowly drowning sons.

First appeared in Liberty Hill Poetry Review



Learning to Dance, 1956

It was the 50s, and all of us

were kids, but you were older—

almost a woman—and you would

teach me to dance. You were

the dark-haired child in a family

of blondes, slightly exotic, wilder,

my best friend's sister.

In your father's basement,

you took my hand and showed me

how to hold you—how to hold

a woman. I was fourteen and knew

already how to be awkward. You knew

I was falling into shadows. When I breathed

your hair, I was no longer in the forest

but had broken through

to a clearing where tall grasses whispered

and swayed, where white-petalled daisies

and violet clover blossomed.

You moved me deeper into the music

and made a meadow spring up around me.

Your body showed me that I had strength

to change the moment, if only the quiet

power of a summer breeze . . .

When you said I would be a good dancer,

that I had rhythm that I could swing ,

I held you close: some day,

I would find the one

who would pull me near to her in love,

not mercy; I would dance with her

and learn her secret names.

First appeared in The Pedestal Magazine



My Father Greets the Day

Each morning he wakens

he praises God

Another day has dawned in him

and he is grateful

He is too old now to make love

but not to remember

My mother's picture waits

near his bed

and he lifts the frame to his mouth

and kisses her

His loneliness is too deep

—he cannot think the sentences—

but his lips find the glass

and his heart opens

Each day is a miracle

that begins in the region of sorrow

yet the sun finds him: he will live this day


stunned each moment that she

is not with him.

First appeared in Kota Press Poetry Journal



About the Author
Charles Fishman's most recent work includes a booklength collection of poetry, Country of Memory (Uccelli Press, 2004) and a chapbook, Five Thousand Bells (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2004). His other books include 4 full-length collections of poetry as well as a major anthology, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (Texas Tech University Press, 1991); Catlives (Texas Tech, 1991), a translation of Sarah Kirsch's Katzenleben ; and nine poetry chapbooks.  The Death Mazurka (Texas Tech University Press, 1989) was listed by the American Library Association as an “Outstanding Book of the Year” (1989) and was nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Fishman's awards include the Ann Stanford Poetry Award from Southern California Anthology, the Eve of St. Agnes Poetry Prize from Negative Capability (1998), and the Gertrude B. Claytor Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America (1987).  In 1995, he received a fellowship in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Fishman created the Visiting Writers Program at Farmingdale State University in 1979 and currently serves as director of the college's Distinguished Speakers Program, which he launched in 2001.  He has also served as coordinator of the Paumanok Poetry Award Competition (1990-97), as series editor of the Water Mark Poets of North America Book Award (1980-83), and as an editor of The Journal of Genocide Research, Cistercian Studies Quarterly, The Drunken Boat, New Works Review, and other magazines.

For readings, book orders, & adoptions:

Title: Country of Memory
Author: Charles Fishman
ISBN: 0-9723231-3-9
Publication Date: May 2004
Price: $14.00

Address: Uccelli Press, PO Box 85394, Seattle, WA  98145-1394
Website: www.uccellipress.com(there is an online store there but to obtain a discount, call, email, or fax the publisher, Toni La Ree Bennett)

Email: pub@uccellipress.com
(secure, 24 hr fax) 206-361-5001
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Phone: 206-240-0075

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