Below you can read a small sample of poems from Luke Fischer's three poetry collections A Gamble for my Daughter (Vagabond Press, 2022), A Personal History of Vision (UWAP Poetry, 2017) and Paths of Flight (Black Pepper, 2013).
On the Pre-Socratics
It’s been said that language
separates us from being,
abstracts us from immersion
in immediacy, but I see you dwell in the logos
as a fish in the sea––an encompassing element
virtually imperceptible––though as yet
venturing only as far as your rock pool’s boundaries.
Your talent for imitation, its astonishing precision,
assumes the shape of a new expression, ‘no way’,
uttered on the fly, not intended for your ears,
as trickling water quickly gathers in a groove.
You kick off your shoes just ‘like Daddy does’,
hold a pen correctly as though you’d attended school and
‘write’ zigzag letters that are not a bad rendering
of my almost illegible hand, as though our actions
were a coursing river––our bodies its bed––and the water,
remembering, flowed on as a tributary
in what you do––fractal reflections on different scales
as river systems, alveoli, blood vessels, leaf veins
all display the branching patterns of water.
But the clarity of your gaze
suggests a still lake (more than a river),
mirroring the particulars of its surroundings,
wherein we recognise things we hadn’t noticed
You join words
into phrases, sentences,
each distinct yet undivided
as dispersed droplets on a table––
holding the same surface tension––
swiftly reunite in a tiny puddle.
Like a young Nereid
presiding over shoals,
you love to sit in the bath,
scoop and pour water
from vessel to vessel.
In short, confirming Thales:
Everything is water.
Yet the spark in your eyes
and gestures, brightening each day,
how, like a torch, you grasped the word
‘light’ (and the Arabic daw ضَوْء)
and could thenceforth
distinguish the oddest wall lamp
and a chandelier, candles, lanterns and sunshine
as so many instances of the one
‘light’––with the fire of the logos
you had lit up that room
in the mansion of forms
housing every possible
In quick succession
further referents ignited:
‘star’, ‘moon’, ‘sun’
‘flower’, ‘stone’, ‘sculpture’
‘water’ (soon evaporated), ‘table’, ‘telephone’,
enveloped by a spreading wildfire, rose
into the sky as flashing fireflies,
increasing the multitude of stars
that orient your world.
According to water’s babble
language is ‘acquired’
but tongues of fire declare
every word is seized
by leaping flame, dry wood
devoured until it’s wholly fire.
Perhaps the first word you uttered
(even before ‘light’) was ‘no’––
no to the way of opinion
(and the puree we tried to spoonfeed you
as, mouth sealed, you shook your head)––
our way, that of the old gods
soon to be overthrown.
‘By yourself!’, ‘by yourself!’
is your insistent refrain (addressing
yourself from a god’s-eye view)
whenever we attempt to lend
a hand––whether in putting on
your shoes or climbing steep stairs––
and, unwaveringly, you make us
redundant in one or another task.
This burning determination
like a spot fire recalls
the defiant wisdom
of Heraclitus, The Obscure
of ancient thought)
who having found truth
deposited his manuscript
at the Temple of Artemis
indifferent to whether others
could decipher his riddles.
You were two-and-a-half-feet tall
with an eight-foot personality,
a candle stub with a disproportionate wick,
when speaking with your mother
I named you with the epithet
‘the sweet dictator’.
Thus it is manifest: everything is fire!
But I’ve forgotten to mention ‘air’:
how you dance on your tippy-toes,
come out of your sleeping-cocoon
and flutter through the living room
as a butterfly.
And your earthiness too:
playing with dirt and sand, or feigning
a tantrum by slowly crawling
as a weary traveller with a burdensome load
then sobbing flat on the ground
until the moment
when you get your way and
rise again like flame, only seeming
to be quenched in ash.
"On the Pre-Socratics" appears on pp. 54-57 of A Gamble for my Daughter and also appeared in the 2020 Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology.
for Ellen Hinsey
‘My whole surface is turned toward you,
all my insides turned away.’
––Wisława Szymborska, ‘Conversation with a Stone’
is a perfect creature
––Zbigniew Herbert, ‘Pebble’
We generally assume
they’ve no interior or soul.
When we break them open
they present a new exterior.
They’re a fraction more
than nothing: a quality
of hardness, a resistance
to our touch. To our sight
bounded shapes: unmoving
inanimate. We speak of their faces
only metaphorically: lacking eyes
and mouth, at most they’re blank.
But sitting by this stream
I’m struck by your simple
presence. Meeting you
the water slows and wrinkles,
rushes on. Not going anywhere
to you it’s all the same whether
you’re clothed in moss or bare,
dappled, in sun or shade.
The stone is worldless, Heidegger wrote.
But is this a deficiency? I agree
their detachment’s perfect;
they seem outside relation––
to call them you a conceit––
indifferent to our distinctions:
geologic, metamorphic, igneous
sedimentary, sandstone, true or false.
But this afternoon as I worried
about what to write and do, they
and not the versatile stream,
appeared as sage––in the world
beyond the world, as though
they were primeval Buddhas
who attained complete humility
and sunken in meditation
hardly noticed death––
only an increase in light.
"Stones" appears on pp. 92-93 of A Personal History of Vision and also appeared in The Best Australian Poems (2017).
…we currently have too much humanness in the world:
too many things reflect humans, mirror humans…
Glancing through a palm frond’s arch,
you notice a bonsai mountain range
on an island in the pond––
five summits of igneous rock.
One sun-lacquered dome
detaches, treads towards
the water… You find yourself
a place to sit beside the liquid sky,
its tundra and blue gorges.
The afternoon slows
to the tempo of his walk,
drawing you back
to childhood hours
lost in play, and further still
beyond your memory. You
sense the age of granite
in the almost glacial
In water, Aesop
doesn’t apply. Waving
to the left and right
he seems to be heading
nowhere in labyrinthine
Until his head
and he looks at you
with dark sleepy eyes.
On the reptilian face
and long black neck
run veins of yellow lava.
if there was a time
when the turtle’s
skin was soft. Did
it gradually wrinkle
in water? Or
is he a sensitive soul
who suffered an early trauma,
grew the scaly epidermis
as bodily armour? In the design
you trace the line of vertebrae.
How did he turn
into a mobile home? So
now whenever he pleases
he’s able to withdraw.
You note that if
the turtle could sing
he’d be a basso profundo.
No, deeper than any bass
he would chant with an order
of Tibetan monks.
Though he doesn’t seem to know it
(perhaps he couldn’t care less),
in tune again with the Zeitgeist
the turtle’s a progressive:
totem of the slow revolution,
ambassador of poetry.
He submerges. The yellow
lilies rising from the surface––
radiant spectres. A poplar standing
against the violet-streaked sky
already absorbs night
into foliage. Hearing a creak
you turn around––the garden
"Turtles" appears on pp. 87-89 of A Personal History of Vision.
Grasshopper in a Field
Who took the young thin stems
and bent them to be your legs,
folded leaves like origami
to make a pair of wings?
I found you:
a green ear of wheat
mounting a stalk,
a walking plant,
self-enclosed, unbound from the soil,
at home in your hall of mirrors.
"Grasshopper in a Field" appears on page 17 of Paths of Flight and was first published in Antipodes (USA).
Band of Cockatoos
The white of their plumage
seems a bit too white like
the polished teeth of salesmen
or the glare of the sheet
on which I jot
though they remind me of children
as they quietly collect
twigs and leaves
from around the path.
Now and then they reveal
the wattle in their underwings
and open their gravel beaks
like rusty doors
but suddenly the lead
alights and hops along
a broken branch, flares
his pineapple Mohawk
while banging his head,
rends his jacket and insists
the members scatter
to the surrounding tiers
where they join
in a punk-rock cacophony.
I hasten from the rally
push the scribbly paper
into a pocket.
Across the valley I spot them
their angophora houses.
"Band of Cockatoos" appears on page 22 of Paths of Flight and was first published in Meanjin.
I walk off alone
through the hot winds
that flap my clothes
like the broken sail of a dhow
beaten by storms on the Red Sea,
across the ochre sands and scattered rocks
and past the caves where desert fathers
once dwelled and prayed.
My eyes settle
before the calm expanse,
trace the subtle gradation of hues
and up ahead I see a man
cloaked in the winds;
his face is dry and cracked
yet tilled by the work
its furrows rise vast trees
abundant with flowers
and gliding the blazing gusts
firebirds alight in their branches.
"Syrian Desert" appears on page 44 of Paths of Flight.
An old man sits at the rear of a dusky cavern,
dressed in a suit and hot pink tie. He listens intently
to the dexterous fingerwork of the young guitarist on his left,
mining with his ears for something that might appear
behind the notes. Every now and then he claps and rubs
his thick hands together, as if warming them before a fire.
As an earthquake sends tremors through the earth, his mouth
sends a wail through the walls––like a Tibetan chant
or the clang of a gong––summoning
oscillations that first made stone, stone.
The man to his right is roused like a giant
from sleep. Towering over a half-created world
he raises his arms, greets the morning sun.
Kyanite eyes peer down into a crystalline earth
and he stamps out countless valleys.
The guitarist continues to strum,
fans a breeze through summer fields
into the chamber where we sit:
hearing the scents of wild flowers
that open in the night.
"Flamenco Trio" appears on page 34 of Paths of Flight.