ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998

Poems by Linda Fischer


Much can be said about trifle and has—
the use of the word for my holiday
confection dating back to the 1500’s. 
Finding its way here from England,
it landed on my mother’s dessert table
(rumor has it) after a trip to Scotland,
and eventually on mine along with a deep,
footed glass bowl.  Trifle, once known
as a “fool,” lavishes vanilla custard
and whipped heavy cream over fruit
and sponge cake moistened with spirits.
Today, you will find rough equivalents,
using a heavier hand (read alcohol),
in Scotland’s tipsy laird and tipsy cake
in our South.  Be that as it may, my mother
stuck with England—perfecting her recipe
for sponge cake and using Bird’s custard
(another import) supplemented, if memory
serves, by store-bought lady fingers 
which she would place on end against
the bowl’s interior like a cradle or fence.

When I learned her methods is obscure.
The only thing I remember clearly
is her pressing upon me the best recipe
she’d found for sponge cake; otherwise
the overall procedure is uncomplicated.
I arrange the surround of lady fingers
on top of the first layer of sponge
(cut to fit) that I’ve spread with any flavor
of seedless jam and sprinkled with sherry,
as did she, followed by dollops of custard
and fruit—repeating the layer once or twice.
Though the contents may be freely varied,
I stick with whatever is fresh—blueberries,
mangos, kiwis, raspberries, bananas
and sugared strawberries that I slice
and snug in above the lady fingers,
leaving the choicest fruit whole
to crown a liberal garnish of the cream.
No matter how elaborate the menu,
trifle is always the pièce de résistance
the consummate finish to Christmas dinner.



The final day of another year—
however prosperous, spent:
the midnight hour will snap it
shut like a purse.  A crepuscular 
haze eclipses the afternoon, slowing
it to a crawl: intimations of snow,
the terrain brushstroked in sepia—so 
too, the paperbark and Japanese maple—
their leaves, wizened and tattered,
twist in the wind.  All but gone
the month’s imperatives: clamor
in the kitchen at a lull, holiday
plates washed and shelved, a half-burnt
log still on the grate.  On account—
the currency of valediction, memories
to tuck away like rare coins.



As to the house, my father said: “It has a lot of potential.” 
He might have offered a few words about my potential,
had he the insight—daughters do improve with age.
What did he see beyond my youthful scrapes?

Consigned to diapers and domesticity, I hired
the decorator, hung the drapes—and finally
dusted off my potential, having disposed of the issue
of an artist’s life leading to unemployment lines.

My father was the creative one—under labor’s yoke. 
What he wanted, he once told me, was having time
to watch the sun rise.  I like to think he’d approve
of my picking it like a plum and putting it into my poems. 

Linda M. Fischer is the author of 3 chapbooks: Raccoon Afternoons, Glory (Finishing Line Press), and Passages (The Orchard Streer Press). Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Aurorean, Ibbetson Street, Iodine Poetry Journal, Philadelphia Poets, Poetry East, Potomac Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Valparaiso Review, The Worcester Review, the ekphrastic poetry anthology Art Through the Eyes of Mad Poets, and elsewhere. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and won the 2019 Philadelphia Writers' Conference poetry contest.

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