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   Jacket 33 — July 2007        link Jacket 33 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

This piece is about 11 printed pages long.

Norman Fischer

Formal Terms

And the storm
Like a stone
Saying only this
From the past
Hangs the stars

I’m still Chinese
Stuck in spell
Soul for soul
Teeter or bow
Heresy, only heresy
In this way

1.Formal Terms

(The perfect fitness of the world
And the exorbitant claims it makes on you,
Sheer physicality
& the branching streams
Never a question entirely of doctrine...)
           And the storm

2.My Cases

(What I heard matched my cases;
Interesting cases, illustrative
Of something shocking in the human condition
Once unzipped, voiding their contents
To inundate the collapsing detachments....)
             Like a stone

3.All Her Clothing

(It becomes you like all
Those things that once stood still
Then were cancelled
By themselves. Young man in black, fascinated,
Watches the talking machine...)
             Saying only this

4.Sweet Tune of Mine

(Can’t remember that I’m talking
To you, me, tiny pin-prick gap
That floods the alphabet’s not apparent
Though it enjambs all my protocols,
Engine of my motion-sickness...)
            From the past

5.Our Hero

(You fell from heaven convincingly, a serial
Betrayal, a blast, a thought
Ah the measure of it, sheer tower
Of what you felt, so futilely defeated,
Beleaguered by your own weight...)
            Hangs the stars

6.Like a Song

(My last words, measure of myself
How I felt about it, that, her, it, it, that
What I did or thought or said, grasped
Finally for all it was worth or thought
It was worth, so said, thought... )
           I’m still Chinese

7.The Usual

(How hard can it be
To be broken as is common
And would be all the more were I not so doubtful
Of my actual condition, its name,
The gears & pulleys that make it go....)
            Stuck in spell

8.Universal Trade

(Everything reminds me of everything, something
Else, not one will stay as it is, was meant to be
Not one not collapsing as it’s built, falls
Like a ton of bricks, some bare bodkin
Barter, not well thought through...)
         Soul for soul

9.More Landscapes

(What’s this plain, this much without
Taste or call for it, not that even
A dust mote can complain within these
Stirrups, these little modest ladders
That connect the levels with liquid cement...)
            Teeter or bow

10.In My Youth

(Anyway words are doubtful not so much as
Fish that so much move in concert, sum of interaction;
Where’s emotion when the claw withdraws
And why was I always
So damnably stubborn about it...)
            Heresy, only heresy

11.Views of a Subject

(Inside the poem there must be flowers
Skies, small furry creatures, anything to
Relieve the tension completely coating
This sphere’s vulnerable airy shell
Not so where there’s music, or time passing...)
            In this way


The body’s allegiance
To some odd track
Of own recognizance
Is a field of concord
Whose old trails
Keep coming to impasses

Some stuck onto divers’
Candles early in the light
Of women, little, on Iowa’s fields
Odd character assemblage one’s self is, whole

Fog burned off to reveal sum
Of all part, hearty
Lapse-arrangement of
Encumbered parties so little,


Late &



Monday through Friday
Events, days, sun



Down   —   facts



Words their testament
Hearing this, O Israel, after
The deluge,

               Small green


On flat stone
Mostly stuff
From home and a hat


In the West we call it
Sunlit trees, some small
Rain plp plp plp

Outer    and     inner



From beginning to
End   -   visual
Talkative, wild, opinionated, it
Seems to enjoy
Jewish boy
Grins, hugs, busses
Things from him”

Because the harsh tales
Jibe with the full sails
There’s              that             again
Something to note every day
Then off, the next morning,





Continuing till the end of the day, life,
Or page
Notions of a self or Self
Like a shelf
Or a pair
Of sunglasses
Much of this
On a plane, or,
Plain from which one can fitfully spy
Small landscapes swimming by
Of a life or half
Of a life

And which,
Out to be moving, moving
Up and down
The ladder’s cold warm rungs
& beyond that odd


                                                  In Brooklyn or


Is opened all of a sudden
Where the rotten part’s taken out
And a selection of dead ones on offer
In the house
Did practically nothing


Onto a trail
Of broken trees

For practically nothing       Made

An open                                             Space

Which was broken                          As if awaiting

Developments                                 We strode up

And down                                        The morning

Small parks                                      To be taken in hand

Going among                                   Homesteads

To be trapped                                  In obscure obstacles


explains poem’s
how I married
an Englishman
  and was lapsed
a break-out
strategy to use their words
to go back, maybe
football (goal)
or golf (hole)


Normal love
As in writing Chinese
Is to be found
At the tip of a beak

Expressive strokes
Against the clouds
In mind’s rhythm
A flurry of feathers and lime

All in all -
Energetically counted
Because they fail to endure
Matter’s tall despair

Accompanied by them all
I’m dreaming my life’s
Pipedream deliberately
Organized around a shadow –

Everything stands
Firm as a post
Yes but it stands
For something else

Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer is a Zen priest and teacher. Former abbot of San Francisco Zen Center, he is founder and teacher of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an international network of Zen and other meditation groups ( His latest poetry collection is I Was Blown Back (Singing Horse, 2005).

You can read Paul Kahn’s review of I Was Blown Back in this issue of Jacket.