Charlotte’s Way

Zoketsu Norman Fischer is a poet, priest, and a former abbot of San Francisco Zen Center. He is founder and teacher of the Everyday Zen Foundation, dedicated to sharing Zen teaching and practice widely with the world. His latest book is Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer's Odyssey to Navigate Life's Perils and Pitfalls. He has also written Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Growing Up and his latest volume of poetry is I Was Blown Back.


Charlotte’s Way
by Norman Fischer • 2008 • $12
Design by Terri Wada • 20 pages • accordion style


Norman Fischer’s long poem takes as its place Charlotte’s Way, a house on the California coast, but mostly the poem takes things in. Fischer, a Zen priest, meditates on talk, the passing of time, the brain, catness, bills to be paid, poems, search parties, birds and myriad other subjects as they flicker in and out of thought. Terri Wada’s design emphasizes the fluidity of Fischer’s thinking; rather than turning from one page to the next, the chapbook opens out, filling both space and time.

from Charlotte’s Way:

When they crumble gently as they leaf
The house flutters like the membrane that it is, tentative
Gesture like a lump humping up from the earth then falling back
As the planet continues with its breathing
Is death returning home some way no one imagines
Setting down the spines and fibers of the flexible material
Till all is level and true finally beyond conceptualization and concatenation
Or is there just the ongoing disturbance of more and more life
Blot on the sheer fabric of nothing?