the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Allen C. Fischer

Is Anyone There?

It wasn’t anything really. A notion,
a scrawny blackened bug, kind of a rusty
paperclip that was able to mount the ramparts
of its song – no, more ringing than song
as though someone were wanting
to get in. Always the desire
to be someplace else, someone else.
A summer creature trapped in the winter
of its skin, calling for a mate where none was.
Although the cricket was equipped with
two antennae, it could not fathom what
the chirp inside the wall was, could not
make out the spaces between notes,
the implicit code of another creature
calling to see if anyone was out there?



I think too much
about myself. A cult
of planets circles
my head like deer flies.

No-see ums take up
the chase, cull
the follicles of my neck
and scalp. It’s my brains

they’re after, the very
depot of my thinking, to cash in
on the royalties of a night’s sleep
and the dividends of dream.

For I am a walking blank check,
a rare earth with the black market
value of a rhinoceros horn.
The price on my head has no limits.

I am at the center of a solar swarm.
Like the sun, moon and stars
I exalt an aura of gravity.
I attract. My blood is dear,

which is why I am so bitten 
and suffer the slings and arrows
of every tick, flea and yellow
jacket that ventures

within my orbit. I’ve tried 
repellants, poisons, a preying
mantis, bats. I’ve tried tea leaves
and tarot cards. Even astrology.

I am astronomical, the seed
of sundry tomorrows, thoughts
which burrow in my brain
eat away invisibly at who I am.    



He felt like he’d left home with nothing ahead.
The road seemed pillaged – the trees bare and
arthritic. Not even the memory of his father’s
voice came through. The pain of loss had stabilized.
Where farms once prospered, there were shacks
and rutted roads. Sewage updated the aquifer.
Flies hatched in December. He made his way
as well as he could, side-stepping the facts,
avoiding their probe, the very roots of his peril.
After all, hadn’t he escaped? He wasn’t sure.
With misgivings rampant, his look could
have been a disguise, and what appeared
to be self-discovery no more than a nightmare.

When finally he woke, he found the door
to his room blocked. Federal agents took him
to a make-shift Ellis Island where he was examined,
his patriotism questioned, even his choice
of God and language. They didn’t like where
he had come from. They found him shiftless,
untrustworthy. Perhaps poverty had rubbed off
on his clothes and caked into a creed.
He might even be hiding something,
be a carrier, a menace to himself.
So he was put in solitary. With nowhere to go,
he paces his thoughts, stares across
the room at a scene he calls the future.


Tabula Rasa

The woods are at war.
Invisible artillery explodes
the snow from tall pines,
sheers it off oak and maple.
The smoke of falling debris
fills the air, drifts like a ghostly
raid through the regiments of trees
as if their lines had been broken
and the next gust might wipe them out.

I follow the advance of this dispute
but lose sight of its objectives,
the strategy of polarity, the point
of going over and over the same ground
as though the physics of ice and fire
would break down and suddenly,
between salvos, between hostile seasons,
I could report that all was forgiven
                                       and forgotten.


In the Crawl Space of My Mind

Darkness does a jittery dance,
my body both audience and
auditorium of the night’s alibi. Soon
dawn accretes a sworn testimony,
its mob fretting in the shadows.
By noon, sweat blames my skin,
hands and feet clammy.
The bus ride to town tosses and turns,
making me motion sick.
In my mind, a radio transmits news
of recession, bank failure, then static,
the neural gravure of a gathering storm.
As dark clouds move in,
the bus pulls away from my stop.
Again I find myself out on the street,
soot and punctuation coming down.
Quibbles, commas and doubts
deepen around me. My nerves shiver.
Back home, my room nears midnight.
Where did the day go?
In my sleep, I try to get control.
I grab hold of a story line, then
my bed as though it were a life boat.
But memory pulls me away.
The sidewalk wobbles,
the street like a lava flow
down to the river, out over my head.



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