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SHJ Issue 8
Fall 2013

[Three Poems + Commentary]

by Clyde Fixmer


Lost, yesterday...two golden hours,
each set with sixty diamond minutes.

—Horace Mann (1796-1859)
Minutes are token knickknacks
on the whatnot-shelves of spinsters,
often ignored as trivial, 
too delicate for clumsy fingers.

Minutes are clusters of grapes, 
each like the others, yet more:
some fail to notice their yeast,
never know what they might be.

Minutes—mine, yours—common 
as rabbits, irretrievable as buckshot.
Most of us waste them, 
certain we’ve more to squander...



The species Didelphius marsupialis
has flourished for millions of years.
Coaxed out in the open by a late winter thaw,
he almost fooled me: hugging the carcass of a birch, 
sunning himself and blending into the fur-gray bark.
Playing his well-known role, he held that perch
as I advanced over brown leaves and cedar needles 
to a place with the sun directly in his eyes.

I glared. He stared. I soon tired of that game
and toyed with the thought of catching him
by rigging a snare from my belt and a sapling,
but gave it up, recalling a hunter who’d told me
possums aren’t worth eating unless you’re desperate.

Thoughts of other wild creatures I’ve seen 
came back, and I remembered when I was three:
I’d wanted to own every bird in our yard, that mouse
in our pantry, those squirrels high in our oak—
angered that no one would fetch them down for me.

Then, like a bully invading his neighbor’s space,
I got down on all fours and dug my nails in
to see what life might be like at the level of his snout,
pretending he was my prey, that I’d stalked him 
for hours, smelling the earth close up, 
with his musky scent teasing my flared nostrils—

And slipped thoroughly into a feral Other-Self,
felt alien jaws snap shut, lips uncover fangs,
a frenzy of snarls escaping from my throat:
I fought off the need to bite at a fly on my shoulder,
now keenly aware of sounds and odors around me,
with witch hazel blooms and wintergreen close
and the skitter of beetles over the moss at my knees...

On impulse, my hand shot out—and boomeranged
in a pain-saving move an inch from his hissing face:
he could have bitten me—spindled my foolish palm!
He seemed not to know that I was trouble to run from,
or, likelier, possums possess no instinct to own us,
for pride, or mementos, or any human reasons.

I watched him climb up into a bare sycamore,
where he wrapped his tail ’round a limb, ignoring me. 
I stayed till the wet grass at my feet glazed over 
and the wind weaseled its way inside my coat—
till it was less needful to worry him than get warm—
then left for my proper home, beginning to thaw, 
thinking on what else was coaxed from its long sleep.

—for Robert Wrigley


A Recipe

Stalk that animal less substantial than air
which haunts the dusky wealds of if and desire.
Track down, in the valleys of your brainwaves,
that wily essence of fact—the requisite myth.

Chase the beast that feasts on the fantastic:
on wishes which spawn exotic offspring, on lies
that make up more than mortal worlds, on dreams
whose alchemy alters the everyday to wonders.
Search those sinuous wrinkles of your cortex,      
seize, and dissect that fictive creature’s soul.
Season with intellect, flavor with inspiration,          
and serve your guests a bowl of that heady gruel.

—for Gregory Benford


Some Notes on Poems from The Year Lived Over & Over:
Commentary by Clyde Fixmer

On “Minutes”

Every poet I ever read has written about time. It’s one of those universal attention-getters. The idea for this poem came to me around 1973, and like most poems it’s been revised many times. Most of the changes were slight: The original first stanza read:

Minutes are frail glass swans
On the corner-shelves of spinsters,
almost invisible to us,
almost too delicate for handling.

and stayed that way until last year. The original last stanza was:

Minutes—mine, yours—common
As rabbits, irretrievable as buckshot.
We hide from them
Until they hide from us....

I was never happy with the first two or last two lines. As soon as I revised the opening, the final two lines just appeared to me, and 40 years later I had finished it. By the way, the main reason I revised this poem so often was that I had to keep the poem’s form to 12 lines and 60 words. I wanted the lines to represent the hours on a clock, and the word count to stand for the minutes in an hour. (A little hokey, maybe, but I couldn’t force myself to abandon those parameters.)

On “Possum”

My dissertation was on James Dickey’s poetry, and as you might imagine, every 3rd poem I wrote at that period was an unashamed imitation of The Great Man’s style. Dickey wrote literally hundreds of poems on the theme of human-becomes-nonhuman, in which the poem’s narrator changes form, or in some manner enters into the essence of another sort of being or entity. “Possum” is one of my early attempts at Dickey worship. My dedication to Bob Wrigley stems from the fact that he was my creative writing student in 1971—and the only one of all my pupils who has become a huge success. As you might assume, he is also a big fan of James Dickey.

On “A Recipe”

As with the subject of time, most poets I’ve read also wrote at least one poem about the process of writing. In the mid-’70s, I read a well-known poem about writing poetry—I think it was by Kenneth Koch—in which he says, “Poems are made from wishes, lies, and dreams.” Many years later I found my earlier version, and it evolved into my final version. (As you can see, I “borrowed” his idea.) I first titled it “A Recipe for Antimatter” because I had thought the poem was about writing science fiction. So I dedicated it to my former classmate at the University of Oklahoma—the well-known science fiction novelist—and that’s its origin. But when I realized that the poem was not just about SF but also about writing creatively, I made a few changes, and this became the end product.

Editor’s Note

The Year Lived Over & Over is on SHJ’s Bookshelf in Issue 7. The book is available for $10 (USD), postage paid, from:

Dragonfly Press
PO Box 746
Columbia CA 95310

Two other books by Clyde Fixmer, Lessons of War and Walking in a Land of Dancers, can also be ordered from Dragonfly Press. For more information, see also:

The Montserrat Review


SHJ Issue 8
Fall 2013

Clyde Fixmer

was born in New Mexico and grew up in Oklahoma. After serving in the USAF as a medic, he earned his degree at Oklahoma University, then worked at a number of colleges before moving to California in 1979. He taught writing for twelve years at an officer-candidate prep school in San Diego, and also at San Diego State University until he retired in 1997. He lives in La Mesa with his wife, Kathy, and their greyhound.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury