Charlene Fix is an Emeritus English Professor at Columbus College of Art and Design where she taught the writing of essays and poems along with various literature courses sometimes while chairing the English and Philosophy Department for many years. A member of The House of Toast Poets, a workshop and performance group, she has also received poetry fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council and the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and has published poems in various literary magazines, among them Poetry, Literary Imagination, Hotel Amerika, The Journal, The Manhattan Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Rattle, and The Cincinnati Review. Eleanor Wilner chose ten of Charlene’s poems for the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from The Poetry Society of America in 2007, and David Lehman selected her poem, “On the Outskirts of Veritgo” for the Louis Hammer Memorial Award for a distinguished poem in the surrealist manner from the Poetry Society of America in 2011. Charlene is the author of Flowering Bruno, a dog-besotted collection of poems with illustrations by Susan Josephson (XOXOX Press 2006, finalist for the 2007 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry), Mischief (a chapbook of poems from Pudding House Press 2003), Charlene Fix: Greatest Hits (a chapbook of poems from Kattywompus Press 2012), Harpo Marx as Trickster (a critical study of Harpo in the thirteen Marx Brothers’ films from McFarland 2013 and featured at a Thurber House Literary Picnic in the summer of 2013), Frankenstein’s Flowers, a collection of poems inspired by myth, books, and films (CW Books 2014), cover painting by Anita Dawson, and Taking a Walk in My Animal Hat (poems from Bottom Dog Press, 2018). Her collection, Jewgirl, shortlisted for the Sexton Prize, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing in 2020. Her poem, “What Dreams May Be” appears on the Academy of American Poets website. Charlene is co-coordinator of Hospital Poets, the Ohio State University Medicine and the Arts Initiative and is also an occasional activist for peace and social justice.
FAIR AND BALANCED
I had a friend who’s still my friend
although I rarely see her. I
mention her because her breasts
were pretty unsymmetrical. I can’t
remember which was bigger, right
or left. But for the sake of balance,
let’s say left. Her mother’s firstborn
died in Auschwitz. And once I saw
a mournful little photograph
of my friend at four holding her
little brother’s hand at the grave
of their father who survived,
but didn’t, the war. Yet she isn’t
sad and morbid but witty and sweet.
This is what she’s like: she used to
take electric rollers with her to
the nursing home where she worked
so she could curl the old ladies’ hair.
Being with her is like being at a fair.
Her face is fair. Life isn’t fair, but
still my friend can love. What has
this to do with language, right and
left? Nothing. Unless you let yourself
be tutored by the breast.
LETTERS OF CHARITY
The face of the man who carries our mail
is scarred with hieroglyphics.
He is the shadow of the long day.
White birds flutter in his worn sack
from the American Southwest,
from Africa, Asia, Europe, New York,
hungry white birds with folded wings,
their soft heads reclined on feathered sides.
Pregnant, I take the mail from him,
feeling the hearts of the birds drumming softly,
shrouded in feathers. They circle as they land,
their beaks holding delicate threads
that bind us to the hungry of the earth,
their wings fanning messages to the valved
ears of our hearts. Today a picture
from a Cambodian mission, a girl
resembling our daughter, leaning on a wall.
Every day they flutter down,
white birds fluting notes from hollow bones.
They lie breathing on the wooden table
amid onions and oranges, here where there is milk.
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