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Charles Fishman: Two Poems
A Salon in Chicago | School Bus, 1958

A Salon in Chicago

A woman ignored her doctor’s order to take
her malnourished son to a hospital immediately
and instead took him to a salon where he died. . .

—AP release
The child was born in March—
in his case, the cruelest month

Born premature   but not puny
he would have lived had he been

fed     His four siblings survive
in protective custody   but he

could not thrive, motherless   minus
affection and food: he died

in the nail shop   his mother’s extended
fingers swaying slightly     True, the doctor

had told her, Take this child to the hospital!
and he’d repeated these words on paper,

this time adding Immediately! But she had
an appointment and there was public assistance

to lose: if the hospital took one look at her son
she’d be out on the street     And her child

cooperated   keeping what he knew to himself:
when the paramedics arrived   he had stopped

moving   but his mother’s nails had dried.

School Bus, 1958

The yellow birdcage bus
swerved at the corner
and screeched
to a shuddering halt:
I would be on time
for indignity   the pecking
order of class   bitter water
from another century.
Almost secure
behind the driver,
I kept alert for knuckle-raps
for snapped-out curses
and swung sideways
with the scrape and burn
of rusting metal. To duck
was the operative verb.

Poet's Biography:
Charles Fishman’s books include The Firewalkers (Avisson Press, 1996), Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (Texas Tech University Press, 1991), The Death Mazurka (Texas Tech, 1989), which was nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and listed by ALA/Choice as one of the outstanding books of the year, Catlives (1991), and seven chapbooks. Several electronic books are available at Write Online.

His awards include the Eve of St. Agnes Poetry Award from Negative Capability (1999), the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize of the Southern California Anthology (1996), and the Gertrude B. Claytor Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America (1987). He has been a finalist or prizewinner in numerous other competitions, including the Pablo Neruda Poetry Award (Nimrod, 1998), the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award (PSA, 1994), and the New Letters Award for Poetry (1993). He has received NEH fellowships in poetry from Yale University (1982), the University of California at San Diego (1978), and Boston University (1974) and completed a Doctor of Arts (D.A.) in contemporary American poetry and poetry writing at SUNY Albany in 1982. In 1995, he received a fellowship in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.