With The Water

With The Water
Photography by Gamaliel Lane Gardner-Masters

Thomas Fitzsimmons

18 poems (mostly) from WITH THE WATER


we are the fair
fair folk we are
magik makers
wordweavers we
make songs make
songs of anything
from anything
whisp twist fling
roll run fall
fly & all that &
love & war & bird
& olden stories
weave bone twist
nerve mend flesh
with tune words
move of fingers
on strings on
breast on heart
juggling moon
stars storm blood
bonegrip break &
stone & eyes &
eyes &
      old old


everything dances
everything        is

& the dances are better now
sinew dances        sinuous

not muscle         not bone
flow dances
lithe sinew ripple
& long                 long
enough lasting for music
to get everywhere in
the space there is to
cancelling distance

             musicfull body
bodyfull music         long

the revolution proceeds
in the most public places


this tribe has a name
   the name is gentle
this tribe has a dance
     the dance is give
give what you do  have
what you give laughter
tears give
give simply a hand or
hair your
face        to be seen
touched    smelled
           to be known

news give
craft           tricks
give time         mind
flesh    all
give all          take
these  &  all      you
can spin      or dream

the dance will find
           its dancers
tribe gentle will



soft soft

in a world





at 13 bitterclosed sometimes
opensoft   & always & always
vulnerable                    hell
                          to be 13

in the crook of my arm
        in the clutch of his words

a boy like others unlike all
                   having to fight
since love comes hard        & you
have to know who you are
                   & the wispmoods
balance on  always  bleak the edge
of disasters    known

wanting scream squirm hug
denied except in ceremonies of
ball     snow     water

an embarrassment              eyes
selftrap    mouth betrays     home
no safer  sometimes it  seems than
any where                        I
paw through 41 years

somewhere in all that junk be
some one thing lived that
given might              gentle it


warm in cold
to the ground          no
re shaping             no
sound          everything
holding all the old
godworld            white
         & those who love
love softly



sometimes there are holes in my head
in my mind
           sometimes there are holes
where a word should be      or image
& in the holes                 color
pinkholes sometimes greenholes   all
smoky         blueredholes not smoky
sharp                      sometimes
there are holes in my head        in
my mind &I watch them


east village

they stayed high for 3 days while
I was there            maybe more
before & after              sweet
quiet people but grey  there they
worried me  so the morning I left
         while everyone was still
       asleep I went out & bought
the fattest roundest
sunfullest oranges I could find
& put them all over the pad
                         for them
to turn them on



mornings are one of the times early
one of the hush times when around
every bead of light/dark a color
waits & the green smell of all
new & the almost hum of music
just about to become & air has
hands & small cool fingers you
can feel them on your cheek up
the back of your neck on your ear
lobes & eyelids speaking    they say
come look look  touchtouch  just
here     come & the birds know
all about it    whispering of it
laughing easy because you sleepy
are so confused so tentative
in the hush the pause wait just
another second hush time when
trees are just barely
awake & beginning to stretch


meditation with interruptions

sex symbol
books say
absent from sculpture
but suggested
found in story painting song
found best
on a woman's head

long hair is best

(she gestures "no"
fingers on my arm my chest
where short hair curls
as at the mingling of her thighs
(nice nice very nice)
but from here for me her no
is yes:  the long hair falls
her shoulders
sings her fires)

long hair is best
nothing's quite so living changing
spread over fingers
drawing light
a gentleness
massed in the hands
warning an ancient pain
lightening to laughter
all mixed together
tight twined with light
in a woman's hair

the body's quietest speaking
a simple accusation


could have invented hair

(Yes hey good christ all right I promise I
...the next...one will be about...hands)


hands are for touching
            you forget


moon over
   everywhere trees

            one hand
               is a scaffold
            two hands

            a manger

         angels mistake you


with the water

the quiet center           is
                   what it is

the quiet center is

to be

when the breath
is            short
the pressure builds
behind eye
hollow a pain
up under into chest

the quiet center           is
                  where it is

it is       being
    & not being

it is being
and letting all


and so being


& blessing

                        it is
the only way now we can bless

stripped of stories
not ready for the hard
images we have made
              are made by


Four GHAZALS (a Persian form)
re made from the Urdu of Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869)
with the help of AIJAZ AHMAD

#1, Ghazals of Ghalib

Neither song's flowering nor the music's weave;
I am the dissonance of myself breaking.

You lose yourself in shaping a curl;
I am caught in the future's dark mass.

Brags of wisdom to hide simple minds;
All thought given to the riddle of pleasing.

Now you have come, be blessed as I touch
My face to earth in longing and prayer.

It is no wonder you came to find me;
I am miserable, you cradle the broken.


#2, Ghazals of Ghalib

Tulip, eglantine differently their colors wear;
Any color carries our Yes to the spring.

Needing a reason to be with them we
Master the drawing of beautiful women.

Who drinks for pleasure drinks only darkness;
Night and day I swig forgetfulness.

In the bleak hour, heads should fall upon jugs;
At the hour of prayer, faces should lift to the holy places.

As the cup of coming spins and spins,
So the man enlightened drinks his own essence.


#3, Ghazals of Ghalib

Each step shows me how far off the end is;
The desert runs ahead faster than I walk.

In the night of my loneliness grief burned my heart so,
Even my shadow left me, like smoke fleeing fire.

My blistered feet bleeding a string of red pearls,
Marked my trail through my desert of madness.

You spin the bright cup of a hundred disguises;
I bring the vision in one startled eye.

Fire seeps from my eye, Asad!
I light the whole garden: soil and dry leaves.


#4, Ghazals of Ghalib

Waterbead's ecstasy: dying into a stream;
Too strong a pain brings its own balm.

So weak now we weep sighs only;
And learn how water melts into air.

The spring cloud thins into rain:
Dies into its own weeping.

You would riddle the miracle of wind shaping?
Watch how a mirror turns green in the spring.

The changes, Ghalib, give us joy of our eyes.
All colors and kinds, should be, and always.



seacurve      falconflight
tonetwist     prancing
                                   to kill
earwisp       falcon spill
                           deep breakdrill
bonetwist     clawing
                         make a song of it
seaweave                 make a song of it

[All poems (except "this tribe has a name") are from With The Water, New Voices Press, Detroit, 1971. Copyright 1971 by Thomas Fitzsimmons. "This tribe has a name" is from pp. 92-3 of DOWNINSIDE: a meditation on light for one to three voices, a Press Zero book, Copyright 1970 by Thomas Fitzsimmons.]

Links to material related to Thomas Fitzsimmons currently on-line (April 2003):

Homepage to the Thomas Fitsimmons & Karen Hargreaves-Fitzsimmons website:

Short Biography of Thomas Fitzimmons, on his and his wife's website:

"Poetry As A Survival Technique" -- talk/essay by Thomas Fitzsimmons:

"Is Two: Becomes One" -- monthly love poems for his Beloved, spanning 5 years:

First Sequence from "First Alfalfa Cut" -- haiku:

Four Translations from JAPANESE POETRY NOW by Thomas Fitzsimmons
"Top," "River," "A Boy And His Mother," "For You":

Published Works by Thomas Fitzsimmons -- in print and out of print:

"Menton: Another Perfect Day In Paradise" by Thomas Fitzsimmons, POETRY Magazine Archives, March 1998:

"Community" by Thomas Fitzsimmons, POETRY Magazine Archives, December 1997:

Mesa Falls

Mesa Falls
Photography by Gamaliel Lane Gardner-Masters

A Few Words About Thomas Fitzsimmons

The editor of this website had Thomas Fitzsimmons for a creative writing class at Michigan State University - Oakland (later renamed Oakland University) in 1961-2, when i was a sophmore in the second class that would be graduating from MSUO. To my personal values, Thomas Fitzsimmons was one of the three best (and most memorable) teachers i had at MSUO, 1960 - 1964. The other two were Samuel Shapiro and Sheldon Appleton (and one shouldn't neglect mentioning Gertrude White and Maurice Brown -- whose enthusiasm for their subjects was utterly contagious; i am *still* enamored of the English Romantic poets Mrs. White taught with such love and excitement -- & with the writers of the American Renaissance that Mr. Brown enthused upon).

Probably about a decade after i graduated i went thru my old college notes, to discard those i knew i'd never want to look at again (Russian & Calculus notes, for example), still holding on to those i thought i might look at one more time (tho i never have). i was quite surprised to find notes from one of Thomas's creative writing classes where he informed us about the contemporary poets we might want to be checking out over the years ahead. i distinctly remember him mentioning, near the beginning of that lecture, that there was no need for us to be taking notes, that we wouldn't be tested on this. But i took notes anyway. At that time i was utterly unfamiliar with *any* of the poets he was recommending; and i doubt i retained their Names afterwards. So what a surprise it was to me, looking over those old notes, all those years later, to now *recognize* the Names of all these poets i'd been buying books by (in bookstores near Wayne State University) and *reading* the past several years! (Allen Ginsberg -- whose poetry record, played to a senior class in 1968, got me fired as a public school teacher, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, Gregory Corso, Bob Kaufman, Denise Levertov, etc.).

After i graduated, my sister, Carolyn, attended Oakland University from 1964 - 1969; thus she was there to know when Thomas would bring poets like Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder to give readings... Special Memories, for sure.

One time Sis suggested i come along & we sit in on a Fitzsimmons lecture. i stopped by the bookstore, first, and ended up buying a copy of Lenore Kandel's Word Alchemy, which i brought with me. Before the lecture Thomas thumbed thru it with interest; he appeared to think well of what he was spot-reading, and made mention that Lenore had been Gary Snyder's first wife (a fact i have never seen mentioned anywhere else, and google-searching on Lenore Kandel for a hopefully-upcoming presentation, that fact *doesn't* appear to be on-line anywhere).

Tho it was probably nigh unto the hundredth time Thomas had delivered that particular lecture, i'd never heard that particular subject dealt with during *my* four years at MSUO/OU. It was probably the Most Important lecture i've ever heard in my life. It dealt with mind-grids -- how our backgrounds, our beliefs, what words mean to us, personally and specifically, *modify* the message "coming in" that we are reading or listening to. It made me deeply aware that, as a writer, there was no assurance that one's readers were going to receive the meaning one was *intending*.

i remember how Thomas mentioned he'd tack the poems he was currently working upon on the wall, so that he'd glance at them recurrently til he got 'em shaped-up perfectly. i remember him mentioning he knew e. e. cummings, personally.

i remember, fondly, the couple poetry readings by him that i attended -- one at InScape, the other at the Royal Oak Library, circa 1980, whereat he looked like an ancient Chinese sage... And, indeed, it seemed that some of the poems he read, on that occasion, had a bit of a classic Chinese feel to them.

My own personal favorites among his many works (several that have come out over the past 20 years i have not had the opportunity to read) have been Downinside, Morningdew, and With The Water. At this point in time i guess one can feel especially *blessed* to be of the few who own copies of these (as with Lenore Kandel's Word Alchemy & Love Poem Book).

Thomas Fitzsimmons's relatively recent (published in 1999) Iron Harp: Birth of the One-Eyed Boy is surely one of the most gut-wrenching collections of autobiographical poems in the 20th century. The only works i'm acquainted with that are comparable, in sheer excellence & intensity, are Lenore Kandel's First They Slaughtered The Angels, Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Kaddish and Li-Young Lee's The City In Which I Love You.

The first edition of Iron Harp: Birth of the One-Eyed Boy -- last i looked at Thomas's website -- is still in print; but the entire edition was only 100 copies; so it will likely not be in print much longer. It is appalling, to me, that poetry of such exquisiteness is brought out in only a hundred copies... while popular dreck continues to sell its millions of copies. But... that's America!

~~ nem

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