ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Linda M. Fischer


Overnight rain.  The air is fresh,
the roses lush: high summer.
The leaves of a backyard tree
glisten, sunlight splashing
through its rain-laden boughs.
I throw open a few windows
and catch a whiff of gardenia
from the deck below.  Cicadas’
insistent hisses begin to rise
and fall, rhythmic as tides  
lapping a shoreline, soothing
as a rocking cradle.  I slip
outside to the winged flash
of a cardinal.  Startled, it flits
from the rim of my birdbath
to the cover of a nearby shrub,
taking nothing for granted.
I keep a respectful distance,
ease myself onto a garden chair
and catch a baby rabbit nibbling
clover, barely visible above the grass.
Raccoons usually come through
at dawn—five one day this week,
hunched like back-alley thugs;
deer, groundhogs, foxes—familiars
that make the rounds with impunity
while chipmunks emerge from every
crevice, skittering to the safety
of the wood pile or the nearest
downspout, tails aloft.  Attuned
to the exigencies of their need,
they seem to prosper—hunt, breed,
nest, root and rummage—under
a guise of tranquility, as I, during
this sweet season of plenty, assume
the common ground between us.



My daughter and I dodge storm clouds
on the six-hour drive to Canandaigua 
the day before Ernie’s memorial service—
my brother-in-law a casualty of the cancer
that has ripped him abruptly from our lives.
My niece flies out the door as we pull
into the driveway; her demeanor belies
a week of mourning.  Skirting puddles
we step inside to the familiar kitchen
to find my sister-in-law June at the sink. 
She turns a tear-stained face toward me,
the loss a wound that throbs long
after an unlooked-for amputation. 
I have no easy words of consolation
and simply fold her into a close embrace,
our sisterhood born less of sympathies
than family ties—both of us bound
irrevocably now by widowhood. 
She offers wine, then points to the food
with “we already ate—serve yourselves!”

While the cousins reconnect I slip outside
for a quick smoke, ill-disposed to confront
another death—her being pitched out
to sea on a boat with a broken rudder. 
Sunlight begins to pierce the unrelenting
gloom, glancing off rinsed greenery.
I watch a giddy cohort of wrens emerge
from the umbrella of a nearby tree, flitting
between fence posts and three birdhouses
tacked to the carport, Ernie’s handiwork.
To enjoy his retirement, he installed a hot tub
on the patio, then filled in the old swimming
pool, turning the space over to an impressive
display of comestibles. He would send me home
with surplus, a tithing of what he learned to
grow, the neatly mulched rows thriving
under his care. I find a stand of tomatoes
on one end and what could well be zucchini,
little else, competing with a tangle of weeds—
the upkeep abandoned to June’s bum knee. 
With a rueful look at the disarray, I go back
inside thinking: I know what I have to do.


Linda M. Fischer’s poems have appeared in a variety of journals: Atlanta Review, Blue Heron Review, Ibbetson Street, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Iodine Poetry Journal, Poetry East, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Worcester Review, and the anthology Art Through the Eyes of Mad Poets. She won the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference Poetry Contest and recently published her 3rd chapbook, Passages (The Orchard Street Press).  Linda lives in Swarthmore, PA.  Her website:

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