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Charles Fishman: Two Poems

Three from Under | A Day at the Beach



Three from Under

1. Octopus

Flaring red, you flow
and ooze, shift from slow
gear to frozen motion:
float. How you sift
through stone, yield
to coral: backbone and tide-
drift of ocean. Which wave
forgets the harsh, hushing
clamp of your tentacles—
their dead-white cuplets?
Creature of brine and star-
fire, your tendrilly ballet
touches us from the far reaches
of our own restless cells.

2. Jellyfish

Something has ripped them loose
from the underbark of the sea
and, half-dead, mute as rain-
drops, they gather at our feet:
a shoal of golden clocks, broken star
sapphires, torn membranes stained
with darkened blood

3. Lionfish

With flared spines
like a bird's spread feathers,
he floats the reef's interstellar
waters: fields of magenta
and violet, stripes of lunar white
bright as a Chinatown awning
He is a caravel   a topgallant warship
Such delicately poisonous spines! that tail,
like an emperor's fan. There—two of them—
a waltz of Javanese dancers. Fly near to us again,
startling creatures.



A Day at the Beach

The lovers have walked to the beach
       to set their lives down
              in the curl of a wave

A few minutes of preparation and they
       are kissing     I look away:
              they have years

to attend to while I swim and read
       Later, I remember they are here
              near the shore line

where the crest of sand breaks and begins
       its slide toward Spain     I turn
              to watch them again:

she is burying him in the sand—
       uses her arms like a prow
              to cut through

the oncoming waves     She embellishes
       her creation   erasing the memory
              of his body

Then his hand is free   and his arm—
       his body lifts from the sand—
              only the shell

that encased him is left     This has been
       good fun: no enmity ripples
              between them

She brushes the warm grains of sand
       from his tanned and dreaming skin
              then lies back, briefly,

where—so patiently!—he lay     But when
       he makes a gesture or two
              toward covering her

she throws the sand off and touches his hair
       eager for him now   though the sun
              has lost its heat

and the waves are almost calm as the breeze
       riffles in     See how he carries her
              over the doorsill

of the dunes   how—clinging to his back
       and shoulders—she directs him
              toward his future




Poet's Biography:
  Charles Fishman is director of the Distinguished Speakers Program at the State University of New York at Farmingdale, where he previously directed the Visiting Writers Program for 18 years. His books include Mortal Companions, The Firewalkers, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, and The Death Mazurka, which was selected by the American Library Association as one of the outstanding books of the year (1989) and nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His 8th chapbook, Time Travel Reports, was published by Timberline Press in Fall 2002. His next booklength collection is entitled Chopinís Piano.

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.