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Chopin's Piano

by Charles Adès Fishman

A Child of the Millennium

He's five months old now — a little short
on experience — but if he could speak,
Jake would sit with the Dalai Lama on a red
and golden throne and hold forth on happiness
and compassion   on freeing the mind from vengeance
and regret   and living in exile from the sacred home:
he's seen the end of days . . . and the beginning.

He doesn't know about race or gender
or that we are murdering the planet   that the earth
is smoldering with underground fires and with the bone-
fires of hatred     He doesn't know about ethnicity
or religion   and will not take with him into the new century
memories of calcined corpses or an interior landscape
peopled with napalmed children.

What Jake is best at has nothing to do with genocide
or the acid tides of history     He travels in realms
where tenderness is a face that brushes his face
He feels the strength of those around him   and their love
and time ticks at his wrist like the gentlest rain     His eyes
are the most translucent lakes, his smiles tiny suns
that shine a clear light on the living.

Winner of the 2007 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence


Chopin’s Piano begins with the vision of the composer's piano being thrown out a fourth-floor window and culminates with a poem for the poet’s grandson, whose smiles "shine a clear light on the living." The movement of this book is toward hope, despite the fact that the past keeps finding us. The poems demonstrate the poet’s range and his ability to speak in many voices from his narration on the Jews of medieval Spain, in "Toledo," and his tribute to Federico García Lorca, to the cinematic "A Child’s Tale," which reveals the interior world of a Japanese boy who escapes the atomic bombing of his city. Charles Fishman engraves indelibly the ravages of the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the Israeli wars and in colors reminiscent of Chagall’s stained-glass Jerusalem windows portrays those he loves and mourns in images that are haunting. In the wasteland of the postwar half-century, the poet is there, unforgettably, rejoicing when he can and agonizing when he has reached "The Place of Burning."
— Lynn Strongin, author of Countrywoman/Surgeon and editor of The Sorrow Psalms: A Book of Twentieth Century Elegy


Though taking place over a half century ago, the horrors of the Holocaust and Hiroshima become as alive as yesterday's rain in Mr. Fishman's able depictions based on the testimony, witness, memory of those with a terrible knowledge and experience. Humanity's brutality is also explored in the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the death of Lorca, and violence in the Holy Land. Grim subjects all. The art is in the telling: a simple declarative tone mixed with vivid imagery; a style of calculation: dare to turn your face and heart away while the poet rivets you with a storyteller's skill.


Chopin's Piano is not a book for poets and poetry lovers only. This is a book that should be read in schools, in libraries, in museums, and in the sanctuary of our homes. It's a book that should be carried around in the halls of academia; it's a book that should be absorbed carefully and then discussed amongst scholars, teachers, musicians, artists, attorneys, architects, bakers, doctors, inventors; and, let us not forget, the survivors, because this is a book about all of these people from all walks of life who made up the Holocaust victims. . . . This is truly the best book of poetry I have read in years; it is so telling and beautiful.
— Mia Jones, editor of Tryst Magazine


The poems in Charles Fishman's newest collection, Chopin's Piano, reflect the poet's fierce determination to look into the eyes of evil. These poems take on the past, facing historical and cultural demons, and thereby dare the reader to do the same. . . . For this reader, Chopin's Piano is an 'offering of refuge' in the landscape of contemporary poetry. It comes wholeheartedly recommended.
— Lois Roma-Deeley, The Pedestal Magazine

This book is available in Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo, and Apple E-book formats, for purchase, and through public libraries' Overdrive account, for loan.

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