Linda M. Fischer
When I give local readings I am often introduced as the garden poet, because I tend to see life through the lens of a natural setting and my poems often reflect my propensity for gardening. Not surprisingly, the first of my poems to see print was in Fine Gardening magazine in 2001. Since then I’ve been publishing routinely in the small press (Ibbetson Street, Atlanta Review, and Poetry East, to name a few). I’ve authored 2 chapbooks which are listed on my website: lindamfischer.com
The New Year
By nightfall the luminaria go up like runway
lights along an airstrip to bring in the new
year. I overhear snatches of conversation,
the last-minute-annies out after dusk, grappling
with their sacks of sand and votive candles:
rumored snow by week’s end all the talk,
another onslaught of winter weather.
Maybe we should be saying novenas over them.
Above the murmurs, distant echoes
of Thor’s hammer reverberate through the mists—
adumbrations of war—banal, inevitable.
Myth prefigures history: how long will we be
hostage to the old feuds, the tyrannies,
blood for blood? You have to be as young as the kid
next door to see hope flicker as the lamps
are lit. With this and a brief flurry of salutations
we retreat, taking refuge in our suburban barricades.
Year of the Monkey
A celebration fiery enough to thaw
the winter doldrums—a small parade,
big of heart, beginning to wind
through the narrow streets of Chinatown,
its younger denizens banging kettle
drums or writhing and leaping under the flamboyant
guise of dragons, if equipped with trousered
human appendages: make-believe
terrors for five and seven, even
when one turns to sashay down the sidewalk
in search of tasty little boys
and shakes its gaudy-glitzy head
above them while we closely clutch our own
and laugh raucously at the mock display.
This is one day they’ll remember:
bone-shattering explosions (the firecrackers
hung like so many ropes of garlic),
billowing towers of smoke, blasted
heads of lettuce (dragon food?)
strewn amongst the shards of red
wrappers littering every corner,
and refuge from the noise and confusion indoors
for Sunday dim sum—won tons
and dumplings galore to warm young
tummies!—within the doting circle of adults
ready to slay the dragons of hunger,
and trepidation, and eager to pile up happy
days like delicacies on a banquet table.
Author's Note: 2016 will again be the Year of the Monkey. I wrote this poem about my grandsons, who are approaching their 18th and 20th birthdays. The poem was first published in The Iconoclast, 2005.
The New Bad Year
—for Barbara Popper
How unlikely a friendship,
its beginning forged over contraband—
the illicit coffee pot
I smuggled into the dorms—
ever an attraction of opposites:
I the rule jumper,
she intrigued by my level of enterprise.
I’d been rudderless; she was grounded,
folding me under her protective wing.
Who but she would champion
La Leche League, still
in its infancy, and give it legs?
Who fought the medical establishment
with Children in Hospitals—a personal
crusade that became a career?
Who gave women by the dozens
voice in the corridors of power,
bolstering their bodies and resolve?
We’d spend hours kicking around
campus our senior year,
eager to jump-start the future:
we got pinned, we graduated,
we married fraternity brothers—
had seven kids between us,
one after the other, settling
into domesticity as if we’d invented it.
This wasn’t the ending we planned—
not on the cusp of retirement,
not with a bevy of grandchildren—
not for someone who played
by the rules: I the smoker,
she diagnosed with lung cancer—
mortality’s cruel joke.
How do we so soon brave
the darkness as it casts its shadow
over a sisterhood of fifty years?
Author's Note: This poem was written in late 2008/early 2009, soon after my dear friend Barbara Popper was diagnosed with the lung cancer that finally took her life in 2014. Early on, she became an advocate for 24-hr. family visitations policies at Massachusetts hospitals, starting the non-profit volunteer organization Children in Hospitals and eventually reforming hospital procedures state-wide. She co-founded Mass Family Voices and worked at the Federation for Children with Special Needs for over 30 years. In partnership with the Federation, her children are launching the Barbara K. Popper Family Health Advocacy Institute.
©2016 Linda M. Fischer