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Since 1996 Volume XXI

Charles Fishman

Charles Fishman is poetry editor of Prism: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators. His books include Chopin’s Piano (2006) In the Language of Women (2011), and his Selected Poems, In the Path of Lightning (2012), all recipients of the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. With Smita Sahay Khan, he is currently editing Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women.

Paul Granger’s Wound

You were the smallest, Paul —

the shortest, leanest, blondest, bravest

in our crew — and you have retreated less far

into darkness. I remember the day

that would etch your wound into my mind,

each catch and notch of memory glistening

with your blood. There was bright sunlight

and deep blue sky      a blaze of white roses

and the dark gray haze of the new state road

the highway commission had bulldozed

into our lives. 

                          You were wearing a round-necked

polo shirt and rolled-up jeans, a black leather belt

and high-backed sneakers. Zigzag stripes crested

on your chest in vertical waves that flowed

from neck to groin: a map of some watery terrain

no friend or parent could decipher. I remember

how the dark blue denim rippled over your thighs,

the lapping rivulets at your knees, the way

your gold-brown hair was parted.

At our water hole

between parkway and woods, your clothes dropped off

and you dove into the cold spring water all of us knew

to be sacred: a dark pool released from the dictates

of nature      where we could breathe without constraint   

without the harsh odor of fear stinging our nostrils.

You dove and we cheered, living for the moment

in the rare oxygen of the underlife you had plunged into   

feeling again the icy waters of time wash over us.


And then you broke the spell, bursting the surface

as you held up your hand, gashed open with that raw

diagonal slash that even now, five decades later,

wildly pulses — that wound written deep in your flesh

with the jagged edge of glass from a smashed beer bottle —

your ruined hand held up for us to witness

in all its bloody splendor      your wound, Paul: the sky

ripped open just when we needed it whole.  


From In the Path of Lightning: Selected Poems (Time Being Books, St. Louis)



© 2012 by Charles Adès Fishman.
All Rights Reserved.