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In the Path of Lightning: Selected Poems


by Charles Adès Fishman

Snow Is the Poem Without Flags

                                   for Orhan Pamuk


What is whiter than stars yet darker
than cloud-sifted moonlight, softer
than the breast that nurtures a child?
Only snow answers this call to mystery
and pleasure — the white snow of a winter's
morning    that dreams itself gone.

And what is its name, this creature
of cold light and desire, where is the center
of its knowledge and longing? Clearly, its address

is history and the heart its blue-white body,
but who can tame it and raise it up from silence?
who can instruct its paws to brush like lamplight

against her face? Only the white breath of the wind
— the wind that moans in Arabic and Turkish    in Hindi
and Hebrew    and English    in the cold mouth

that prays in a thousand tongues and knows
no mother or father    that cries like a child
who thirsts for the breast    only the wind

brushing the face of the snow that was born
anonymous    the wind in the snow's
white hair      And where can we find this snow,

immersed as we are in summer    in the heat
of war    with a hot sun blazing    and the whine
of rockets and bombs that fly like blown flakes

of darkness    everything on fire with a great
and unquenchable thirst? Only the wind can speak  
          and name its country.

Winner of the 2013 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence
Winner of the 2014 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award for Poetry




Charles Fishman listens to the world with a stillness and intensity most of us can't imagine. He knows there are voices in the wind, and he hears them and listens to them, and then he tells us what they are saying in a voice so direct and selfless and loving that we feel that we ourselves are hearing those voices.
— John Guzlowski


Charles Fishman's poems are deep, sensuous, musical, and fully alive. Each one rings true.
— Denise Levertov


Charles Fishman's poetry — part narrative, part concrete, part lyrical, part elegy, and part prose, is furious and justice-demanding. This is poetry of witness, not just an account but an urge to acknowledge and protest. Full of people . . . these poems turn sombre, grappling with domestic violence, sickness, death and cold-blooded murder. Even through life's tender joys, Fishman captures its impenetrable darkness.  
Pedestal Magazine


The poems [in In the Path of Lightning]are of elemental power, Charles. The extended poems in sequence—"The Silence," "Seven Witnesses,""A Child's Tale"—among earlier works, "Ghosts" in the newer work. Just when you think not another word can be said about the Holocaust, you come along with a poem that singes memory. How you cause that child to flare up in its mother's arms and in our hearts, and take him, take him. Thank you for this work, these poems, Charles.
Myra Sklarew





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