ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Linda M. Fischer


When I get the call at 1:15 a.m.          (the ring jolting me awake)    
and catch up with the ambulance—               
turned away from the first ER             (full to capacity)
to which I had been directed—          (with backtracking, over an hour)
she is alert, almost cheerful,
reassuring in spite of the gash             (a jagged three inches)
on her head and an appalling halo
of blood.  Another fall, this time        (striking the corner of a table)
in an unsteady attempt to get to
the bathroom—half drugged
on sleeping pills—the laceration        (my caveats of no avail)
a bad bargain with insomnia.                         
Sorry for my dislocation yet cavalier
about her injury, she fills me in,         (with what she can remember)
buoyed by not having to endure
another sleepless night alone.             (her perennial plaint)
A doctor appears after a long
interval, the soul of efficiency,           (the wait interminable)
makes a quick assessment                             
and assures us we'll be out of there    (it had been hours)
in no time.  I offer a third hand                      
as he flushes the wound, exposing     (with me holding it open)
bone—a startling white—                              
her skull a window on mortality.        (my composure crumbling)
The sutures go in.  Toward dawn,
we detour to my house for coffee       (still in her nightgown)
and a robe before I take her back—   
delivering her to the safety of bed                            
and returning to my own—sure          (by 8:00 a.m., numb)
in the knowledge of what lay ahead. 



The dreamer steps gingerly to the deck,
brushing aside spider webs strung up
like laundry overnight.  Mid-July:
cicadas croon the songs of summer
as morning vapors rise in the heat,
the drone lifting and falling in waves.
A few doors away the mowing begins:
suburban harmonies of the spheres.

Surrendering to her Zen—the ideal balance
between form, color—she reflects on the clutter
at one end of a border, foxglove
and rose campion the prime offenders. 
Of her art—gardens, no less
her poem—the goal clarity of line, control.
She decides to scrap the opening stanza:
a first lesson—learn to be ruthless.




She told me it was creeping up on us,                                   
signs of adolescence—the scourge                                        
of parenting—sweeping the artifacts                                     
of childhood before it like the detritus
of a tidal wave battering a closed
door—my daughter at that age
slamming hers hard enough
to make the house shudder.
And now her firstborn: a perceptible
shadow forming above his lip,
his pants riding up his calves,
sneakers as big as whalers.
He of the obliging disposition has begun
to balk at the dictums of his elders—
taking umbrage at my correcting
a misspelled word or suggesting
that the use of punctuation in poetry
follows conventions lost
on his English teacher, my rival
in authority.  What do I know?—
I get the silent treatment.
At my behest, he repairs to the dictionary,
his face glowering, retreating
to the uncritical maw of the computer
as I remind his back that I have
taught English and to his deepening scowl
offer the rebuke: Trust me—I've been
on this planet longer than you have!
Futile to think we can subvert
intransigence, hormones at twelve
roiling around like a nor'easter—
or avoid the williwaws ahead.
One day, I tell her, equilibrium
will be restored, the adult
emerge with an innate sweetness
of temperament nearly intact…
even if it tests us to the max.


Linda M. Fischer is the author of 2 chapbooks: Raccoon Afternoons and Glory (Finishing Line Press).  Her poems have recently appeared in Ibbetson Street, Muddy River Poetry Review, Poetry East, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, SoFloPoJo, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, and The Worcester Review. Nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, she is an avid gardener and lives in Swarthmore, PA.

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