Two Poems by Norman Fischer

by: Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer’s poetry is like a dream about how one’s own mind is dreaming. It urges us to see and explore the language we use to tell and retell our experience of world and self…



only in dreams or especially

in dreams do I meet friends

who want to tell me

what they can’t in life in words

voiced in mouth with tongue

making intermediate vocalizations

for in dreams ears or eyes speak

in smells & colors shapes

sensations touches slight

nerve quiverings im

possible (other than in dreams in

which such things have clear meanings)

to define for definition is word formulation

conceived otherwise than in dreams

in which what happens simply

does with a feeling of meaning though there’s

no meaning anyone (not in a dream)

could sensibly tell so there’s a feeling of full

ness & completion that can’t be

told in those indefinite words

I just used to erase it I

could not help but do so for

in referring to them (they

are place holders for the

immediate feelings which

I’m writing about here) during

which (the writing of which) there’s al

ways (there has been — as in writing

in midst of a dream) a fixation

with words’ beginnings words’ initial




(for Mei Mei Berssenbrugge)

Plants are dreaming of me there’s distance

in their dream at whose vanishing point my

dream meets theirs which effects a

melding in consciousness so that my thinking

of myself is a plant’s thinking of a plant

In mythical realities I can hear them

referring to things I’ve written in poems

but they are neither impressed nor unimpressed

Downstairs in someone’s room I

hear a cricket’s song outside

distant thunder   As I said, our lives are myths so

ordinary things like meals or per

ceptions are symbolic

People can’t communicate & that’s

painful yet people are closer to

one another instinctually, genetically,

molecules of one flesh merging,

mixing though pseudoidentities, lost, wander,

bodies tuned to identical frequencies

Because they are equally beautiful

people & plants merge usually in

meals & death & become each

other, instinctually feeling support

& love though there’s only dreaming no thinking

so there’s no illness, that’s

conceptual & based on a distorted

projection into the space between molecules

while in fact every living thing constantly

thrives in its own way

Still I stayed in bed today weakly

at the same time I was transporting

myself into those plant-stems &

those purple buds being visited by

earnest bees  Was I asleep or awake then?

Were the purple buds — now flowers

fully opened — aware it was me dream

ing them or was my dream more real

than Mei Mei expected or deigned to

describe in her text that’s this   I can

hear the multiple buzz now, earnest

Again today I’m not feeling well

a feeling that’s good in the way it’s

not the feeling I’m used to that could meet

an expectation of a certain kind of

activity I might wish to be doing —

I’m thinking — but I can’t

That’s my memory jogging itself into action

deciding what I think I might want

(wanting implying time passing from

one state in me — as if I were — to the next)

No experience is one experience first

it’s unregistered, next, it’s a (false)

memory, then I’m making a puzzle

out of it assign it a meaning

I’m assimilating you the various

digesting consequences & re-shaping

them though there’s really no agent

As with each different leaf

on that aspen tree, there’s repeating without

repeating, a finite number

of possible shapes reiterated, fractals, nothing

the same — not even the same

as itself (identity having come much

later, like cuisine)  I keep thinking through something

since I can never think through nothing

(though I can think of that word) —

anything is something

a thing so thick and adamant facing

me expressive yet dumb like earth

begging the question — so I become

that, thought’s only fooling

me in the meantime to be thinking

me, though I think I’m thinking it

All this leaking out of me or

into me from the day’s clear or

diffuse clouds from the hills gravel

on the road large black beetle the

bees downy woodpecker the sound now

of machinery  There’s a subtle vibration within

(or as) silence that I feel as

quiver in the hairs in my nostrils

or small downy hairs on back

of neck  Alone in it there’s a

fuller sense of being as if it were actually

something or anything combined with

nothing — meaning silence or

space — as I was saying that I

remember participating in or

as little white pieces of torn paper

fluttering down indoors or snow

Self colors, covers that — I

don’t have to be naive

this speaking there’s nothing

to explain when I’m here you must be too 

I noticed early on there was a

difference in the room if someone

were present or not that they’d

draw me into an understandable

world as a form of sharing to

ease the anxiety that possibly

there isn’t anything filling in

the immense hope with rainwater

or tone of voice  But there’s no solitude otherwise

no social world nothing

to speak about, people always

controversial with their opinions &

needs they’re moved exactly as

water flowing onward moves when re

directed by rocks or banks or

slowed by silt  So there’s only

solitude  Yellow yarrow flowers cluster

in a bunch beyond them flagstone &

a cherry tree  Little leaf movements twitch

in slight breeze making a pattern

speaking a language I don’t know

(a natural Morse code of short &

longer movements)  I stop to ponder

these movements my pre-linguistic thought

dances in tempo then body moves also

as these words my pen  Time isn’t

moving while I gingerly absorb these

flavors my memory a story that

never occurred except as I configure

it my belief makes it so

Connection — nothing in itself—

appears as a visual image   I can’t

identify any object but feel met &

welcomed by space

Mirrors shine,

glitter, reflect image

at a point in time    So

much now past — more

than is future or present or

past future present always

one quantity one tiny breach

or gap into which suddenly

a wave breaks drenches

recedes leaving again a gap

for wave  Where there’s feeling suddenly

I see space opening I’m tired now

so weary  I think I hardly exist

except as low hum of sub

vocal thought whispering

me into almostbeing this tiny

point of feeling between us illuminating

me — or you —


Norman Fischer’s latest collections are “Conflict” (Chax, 2012), “The Strugglers” (Singing Horse, 2013), and “Escape This Crazy Life of Tears: Japan 2010” (Tinfish, 2014). He is a Zen priest, founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation, who lives in Muir Beach, CA. 

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