Charles Fishman's books at bn.com:
As the Sun Goes Down in Fire

The Death Mazurka: Poems

Catlives: Sarah Kirsch's "Katzenleben"

Charles Fishman Charles Fishman

Counting the Holocaust

He tried to get a handle on the Holocaust:
let others immerse themselves in questions
of time and intention

He would leave the Nazis to history
the endless litany of camps to architects
and statisticians

Let the professors tussle over Hitler's evil
sss the altruism of Schindler sss the German
muse of Goldhagen

He wanted to know one thing only—
what six million of anything added up to . . .
and so he counted:

grains of uncooked rice sss until the gallon jugs
he dropped them into filled his kitchen sss un-
matched contact lenses

newly-minted pennies sss then soda pop bottle caps
battered shoe boxes sss abandoned valisessss and six
million periods in 12-point

Gothic type: thirty-seven hundred and four unconsumed
pages sssssHe was counting the Holocaust sss and he
kept counting.

The Grizzly Suit

a scrap-metal dealer from North Bay, Ontario, has been on a quest to wrestle a grizzly in the wild. —New York Times Sunday Magazine — late 90s

He was knocked down in the Rockies
by a rather large bear—call it a visitation:
one blow from that hairy paw and he'd gone

sss and the grizzly—600 nasty pounds
of fur and flesh—melted into the Canadian forest
He checked each muscle and bone and found himself

intactsss yet something in his head had been mangled
some delicately constructed underpinning had been
crushedsss and he called after the vanishing bear

(albeit silently), Damn you, come back! Why can't you
fight like a man?
When his head cleared
and he'd shut the door of his metal shop behind him,

he heard the click of an idea—like a nicely tooled iron latch
it slipped into place: he would construct a grizzly suit
and march into battle: each tear-proof seam would resist

the tug of mountainsssseach boot—each sumptuously mailed
fist—would be designed to smashsssss The 12-inch apron of steel
that girded his abdomen would deflect the brutal assault

of a biker gang
sss and the high-tech diver's helmet that fit
so snugly on his human head would hold up in the face
of any known evilsssss So what if he'd gone bankrupt

and could call no grizzly out of the deep Canadian woods?
He was now impervious to the blows of age and time
to casual confrontations each treacherous day can bring

nor could some fierce unnamable jinn unsheathe
his armored chestsss or send him reeling backwards again
into the unprotected precincts of his mind.

My Father Washing Dishes

For fifty years he stood at his job
growing a small pension and varicose veins
that still ache when he walks

Yet he refuses to get a dishwasher
to save his back and legs: it was for her sake
he stood
sssand ours

Nothing has changedsssssHe leans
against the sinksssbends his stiff back
over the suds

She had cooked for him for almost sixty years
had been a partner of the first water: loyal
loving sssa constant friendsss and a gypsy

on the dance floor where his legs felt young
despite the painsssssAnd so he stands and scrubs
each cup and platesssthe frying pansss each fork
while the hot water pours from the tap like music.

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