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Norman Fischer


Those dreams I had

One night at edge

Or it was morning I

Missed then in a

Dream of the problem

Of the trouble that’s

Never so bad in dreams

As it might seem when

I’m not talking to you

But only dreaming

My dream of being myself

Or I’m someone else

But always elsewhere,

Elsewhere, disembarking.

There’s trouble, a prob-

Lem according to someone

But to me it seems, well,

It seems just to be the

Ordinary patient dilemma

Of a demanding world

Of snowy sleep.

In sleep demands cohere

In new ways the rules

Differ if you can stay

Afloat in them. Don’t panic!

Another person says (her

Body says) but I don’t

Anyway, I’m her

Dream. Things make

Sense over here

In their peculiar way.


In foggy day air’s

Sea’s hillside wrapped

In fog where vulture’s

Wing-swept dark swoops

Or scoops air or’s scooped

In air while bushtips

Twitter in what wind’s here

Or there at which I look

To describe but am lost

In words or without them

Then the simplest ones

That make their mark

On some piece of paper there

Mumbling, a fly

Flies by


All the people

Swiftly & slowly

Pass through

Catch sleeve

On bougainvillea twig

Hangs too low

Breaks forward


Rhythm & rhyme — such

Confusion of purpose —

The rich convinced

They’re conscious

But for rosy fragrance

On morning bush

In fog

Destroys the lazy thinking —

Earthy, loamy —

Daddy took the keys

Now it’s miasma

Of right & wrong

Never sleeps

& does not know

All do determined by brain

No more great men

Advance the ball

History’s on its own

A cloud

A fog

Like war

Like consumer preference data

Murky moon above

See (sea) below


There are no seasons in a dull mind

In a tired mind a spent mind and broken

There’s no renewal. Hold up the lantern over there

Light up the sky over there

In days there are forever afternoons

The calm man rides by on a horse let’s

Watch the years go by

The calm man on the horse over there

Two by two each one male and female

According to their dispensations

There are no more people

Around here anymore


Can’t keep it, that, but, fight

The subject till it fall from its height

To defeat in a welter of watered words —

These grow by seed, sprout, leaf out, flourish,

Breed whole civilizations of discontent,

Unsayable bastions, analogues of spent

And secret jargon only the dead decipher

In their subsoil strongholds —

Note that this style belongs to a shyster,

No natural expression of my sophisticated

Innocence, fashionably implicated in a round absence,

Sorry desire without object —

Leveled, defying description


All those gathered

Those tethered in place and worshipped

For their surfeit as forfeit of lordship  

Those sacred folk of myth

Olympian in their outsized desire

Choose to benight themselves

Over treasures of the earth

Designer mountains, haute couture seas

As we sing of them as gods they’re so good

At conjuring cash from connection and thirst

And smoke and mirrors and rinds of flesh

They soar over there on their cloud

Justice justice the prophet says

And gets his words echo back

Who knows how to get there

From here or to here from here — suppose

All were not as on Olympus

But were instead as one wished

In one’s last best thought

On one’s last best day

Where would then the

Emphasis lie if not

Beyond telling or singing

In what one aspired to

A warmth in heart and hand

A last will and testament

On human earth


Ordered that girl’s sloping eye

Mirrored in that fisheye

In that large thin fingereye

That irradiated eye in the rye

Two elbows touch at the elbow

After the sun comes out

Jumbled clothing spread out on a street

Does the irascible man mutter to his mother?

No use fooling around about the violence

Squeezes out the other end of desire, life, eye

One punch as well as the following

Mixing metaphors with mountaintops

As eye lopes along music’s fidgety trail

Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer is a poet, essayist, and Soto Zen Buddhist priest who has written and published steadily since the late 1970’s. Recent poetry titles include Nature, There Was A Clattering As… , The Museum of Capitalism, and Selected Poems 1980-2013. His Experience: On Thinking, Writing, Language and Religion was published in the University of Alabama Press Poetics Series in 2016. His latest Buddhist title is When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen. He lives in Muir Beach CA with his wife Kathie, also a Zen priest.

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