Xylographic Analysis

of the Rachel

Robert L. Fisher


The remote sensing drones immediately detected the shipwreck. On the screen the distinctive outline of prow and bow, like a graceful almond-shaped eye, was clearly visible in the slender blue lines added by the computer against the green of the water. But on the bank of the river where I stood there was only calm water reflecting the blue sky, and whatever lay below the surface was hidden from view.

The computer also told us this seagoing steamship had been built in Belfast in the early twentieth century. It had somehow…

The Bench

Robert L. Fisher


It’s a troubling dream. If it is a dream, for I am given to wandering alone at night through the urban forest. There is a path, overarched by old trees, and in this tunnel, just before it bears right, is a bench, bearing a small memorial plaque, dedicated to a loved one no longer extant, but sorely missed, or in some cases, praised to the skies, more to exult the living relatives than the deceased.

Opposite the bench is a light on an iron pole, old-fashioned, a cube of glass and black metal edges…

The Refining Fire of Grief

Robert L. Fisher


And yet we yearn for transcendence, for life after death, for reunion with our loved ones somewhere outside time, in Eternity, in a world free of suffering and exploitation, for the resurrection of the young, like our son who died at twenty-two of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When we visit his grave and gaze upon the medallion bearing his photo, taken shorty before his sudden death, his glorious red hair cropped like an army recruit’s, we wish for his return to life in the full vitality of a young man. …

For Norman on the 15th Anniversary of his Death

Today I saw two angels at your grave,

Young men, like you,

Ageless, like you.

They held a silver bowl of water

And dropped into it one by one

Crumpled wads of Japanese paper,

That in a few moments surprised us all

By unfolding into plum blossoms

And cranes and even boats.

The water was dappled with every hue,

Bright reds and pale blues,

Sunbursts of yellow and wooden browns.

The angels and I thought

These hidden petals and wings and sails

Are like our memories of you

That once evoked…

For Gino on His Eightieth Birthday

A good man like you

When he walks

Leaves footprints of sunlight.

People without hope or purpose

Step in these pools of light


Some pains have deep roots.

At first it seems a mere twinge,

then you’re a child,

standing before your father’s closed door,

standing behind mother’s back

as she irons or…

Some of my words tip-toe around you,

But cannot find your centre,

Others, shot from my bow, at the last minute,

Fall short of the target.

Like describing Nirvana, my words say

What you are not, not what you are.

If I fall past the event horizon of you,

I find my tongue, and the words come tumbling out,

But then they can never escape your embrace

And spiral toward you forever, ever faster,

Incandescent, timeless, but outside this world.

In early spring cherry blossoms call to one another,

From branch to branch, tree to tree,

‘I’m alive! I’m alive…

Mock Funerals East and West

Robert L. Fisher


The communis opinio of both scholars, East and West, and the Chinese reading public has for the past two centuries valued Cao Xueqin’s five-volume novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber (1791), as the greatest work of fiction in Chinese literature. The novel describes an upper-class Qing (Manchu) Dynasty extended family in almost anthropological detail, all told in a vivid colloquial language, but what perhaps accounts most for its popularity is the love story between Jia Baoyu, the adolescent heir to the family fortune, and his love for the frail, ethereally…

III Taking a Microscope to Evil

Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? Job 31:15

Even a brutal SS guard was once an innocent child. How did he become the heartless embodiment of cruelty, the thug pressing his jackboot onto the neck of a wretched prisoner? What has happened in his life to bring him to play this role? What frightens him so much that his hatred has reached these pathological proportions?

Auschwitz is a product of the human brain, and perhaps it is there that an answer should be sought. What psychiatrists…

Robert Fisher

I guess I’m what you might call a misanthrope, or maybe I’m just disappointed with myself.

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