My first poems included “Father’s Day 1990,” “Why Do I Turn to the Right Instead of Going to Left,” and “This False Sign Is Dangerous.” Here are some recent favorites. “The Little Boat” came after reading Rimbaud’s poem, “Le Bateau Ivre” (“The Drunken Boat”). The first three verses and last verse describe one of my crayon drawings. “Happiness” surprised me. I thought that I was going to write about traveling on a train, but the first line took me on another journey. “The Air of Time” is an ars poetica. “River Burning” and “I Wouldn’t Mind” were published in Apiary Online. I wrote “River Burning” after seeing Apocalypse Now for the first time, many years after the movie was released. In “I Wouldn’t Mind” I responded to an invitation to write outrageously.
The Little Boat Upside down gray blue moon hull tilts up on childlike waves
sails pull from mast red yellow blue streamers blow gaily slight orange bird perched on one foot looks out from the bow purple skin I wanted to burn experience the sand the water the waves ride the billows beyond the breakers swim to the horizon to portugal after the shows from the beach at midnight out further and further on the silk coated sea swill in the punch drink it down like grape juice I’ve seen gray mornings from lounge chairs lonely dawns sail far or die I knew the shipwrecks of lost times the piloting with no pilot and the liberation coasting on wind rudder water again oh the blue water the flinging foam the swell of motion the joy of new to find embrace my hull was smooth my sails like ballerinas but I have known the seductions the pirates on deck the disdaining of anchor then horror the shipwreck no waking from nightmare the suburbs the highways the little boat mourns the loss of the sea to move again see stars moon at midnight rock breezes late shift of hours hear birds at dawn the little boat tilts bird gazes ahead after the storm
↑Back to Top↑ Happiness Boy breaks away from kids’ nighttime parade, Hugs me, runs down the street, calls, My mom’s back! My mom’s back! Art gallery on the porch, Drawings taped to brick, Names in chalk on wall. Lemonade. Jahiem announces, Matthew, today is your graduation! In my father’s shirts, Rashan, Latifa, and Matthew march down the alley. The Spirit of the Western Range, six years old, Walks across Edinburgh. Larry flies the dragon. My snake’s tail doesn’t catch In the spokes of the bicycle. I distribute fortune cookie brandy snaps: You will enjoy The Olive Lake at Randolph Studio. Hollyrood Park, to Arthur’s Seat. Hi to the Tap Dance Goddess of the Lower East Side, And a birdlike man singing cabaret. Tell Dad how high I climbed! Dirty, Birnham-Dunkeld flyer run, Showered, long skirt and shawl, Take-out fish and chips. In our little room, The guys are watching a documentary about the Brooklyn Bridge. Me too, glancing up from Pride and Prejudice. A teenage summer. We were cozy in that room.
↑Back to Top↑ The Air of Time Dreams can have a smell. The whiff of a particular. So can time. Making costumes with Susan. Grandmom’s sewing machine against the wall. The cab ride back. Moon on pond at 4 AM. Short poems in a small book that summer. Singing, each song a different world. Photos of family scenes, green and yellow light, night. Everyone is alive. Visit you in an apartment you never had. We make love. The other side of a river in Cambridge. Must get to it again, go for a walk with Karen. Green red blue wooden shapes, never had that toy. Find it. Walk to the beach from Grandmom’s house. Diseased bump protrudes from tree, little pond. We know them. Stay up all night, reading The Fall. Agony turns, bike ride on the Boardwalk. Suddenly you walk onto a mountain road, or hitch to Dogtail Corners. Four girls crowded in the old man’s car. They hover. Bring them in.
↑Back to Top↑ River, Burning Structure hovers, stilts. Village curves by river. Muddy water, steer boat Through ferns. Meet tiger, hunt for mangoes. Order bomb. Writhing flames snake from bomb. Travel fast, devour stilts. Why will chef then hunt for mangoes? Hurry back to safety, river. Flee from hush that lurks in ferns. Silent, skims the painted boat. Two kids play a game on boat. Captain prepares bomb. Ravages ferns. Flamingo stilts. Sprinkles death up river. Makes still, woman, sampan, mangoes.
↑Back to Top↑ I Wouldn’t Mind I glance at the hand, notice a ring pretty quickly. Sometimes no ring: winding conversations, hope. But the person he rushed to meet at the airport is His wife who will have their second child this summer. “What’s the difference between strangers you’d meet online and people you met with the Sierra Club?” It’s not the Sierra Club, it’s the Appalachian Mountain Club. What if I have to spend the evening with a creep who asks me about my favorite TV shows? Or a psycho weirdo who won’t get out of my life once I let him in? Some tight little suit will ask me for my cell phone number. “I don’t give it out except for emergencies, Like meeting a friend at the train station and I’m waiting on the wrong side, when I leave my house, I want to be in the world, not on a leash.” “I couldn’t date I woman I can’t reach on her cell phone.” “I wish you the best in your search.” Thank goodness we met at a café I never go to. Outside the club, a jazz musician plays with his latest gadget. I tease him. I wouldn’t mind. I’m dreaming against the subway window. A woman in an orange dress pushes up close. “Ma’am, you’re beautiful. Lose your standards,” or “Don’t lose your standards.” Which did she say? The doors opened and she got off.
Copyright ©2020 Janet Fishman. All rights reserved.