Offcourse Literary Journal

Two Poems, by John Amen.

Walking Unsure of Myself
Election Day, 2004
For Richard.

A black dog snarls behind a white fence.

I'm changing my clothes like a good American.

A man gives birth to a war; his wife
suckles it until her breasts bleed like IV bags.

Handprints on a Christmas card.
The receiver has not been hung up.
The taxi driver keeps honking his horn.

What occurs between breaths is a red herring.

The kettle has been whistling for an hour,
and I think something is wrong downstairs.

A man is selling fake flowers outside the post office.

The fortune teller is battling a migraine.
Wind has swallowed my itinerary.

A man in blue goggles is on his knees outside the bank.
The rape victim is scrubbing herself with a steel brush.

I cannot keep my hands off the telephone.
I am married to machines, and part of me is dying.

I am in a black hole picking tomatoes.

The heiress holds her hand over a lit candle.

Someone is planning a bank robbery.
The nun is renouncing her vows.

The tycoon wants to push the prom queen onto the subway track.

Another fast-food restaurant plants its flag in our hearts.

Flies are circling the dead bird. I forgot to pick up milk.

The war is just beginning. I need to buy new shoes.

The dog in the next yard is missing an ear.
Effigies are being burned in the ball field.

I was blowing up a doll when I heard the news.

The brakes were shot, and we had to crash into the wall.

I cut down the oak as my mother wept in our doorway.

Neighbors kept coming, bringing meatloaf and deli trays.

Blood on the blackboard.
Lunchboxes scattered in the gymnasium.

We were glued to the television,
waiting for reports on the plane crash.

A snail is crawling across the interstate.
The debutante enters the unemployment office.

Take this carnation before night falls;
soon we will be too busy to talk.

There is a shotgun shell in the sandbox,
a dead cardinal on the basketball court.

Someone has left a cigarette burning on the altar.

The valedictorian plucked the wings of a butterfly.
The wrestler broke his arm doing a cartwheel.

I woke up with leaves in my hair.
There was ketchup on my diploma.

So many compulsions, so little time.

I swear I saw a woman struggling in the backseat.

It is my job to clean the dragon's teeth.

The shutters hadn't been opened for years;
light stampeded through the window, and I recalled
collecting nets in Phoenicia. I died a violent death.

There were tire tracks on the museum floor.

So much space, so little god.
The baby was floating facedown in the swimming pool.

We walked barefoot through fields of snow.
Doves were flying above the belching chimneys.

The helicopter is on fire. The cop loads his rifle.

A robin is perched on the molester's gravestone.
There is police tape around the monkey bars.

A man in a wheelchair spins in the intersection.

A tortoise is crawling through tar.

I placed my ballot in the dead monster's mouth.



One Night in Arizona

The moon looks on, amused referee.
A mother sits by the birdcage

darning socks for the young priest.
Heat hangs over the house like a quilt.

We have not spoken for months,
key broken off in a lock of silence.

The desert stretches like a gauntlet,
nothing between me and the dust

but this thin membrane: distraction.


John Amen's debut poetry collection, Christening the Dancer, was released by Uccelli Press in 2003 and has been nominated for various national awards, including the Oscar Arnold Young Award and the Brockman-Campbell Prize.The book was reviewed in Offcourse Issue #18, Fall03, by Robert W. Greene. Amen has published poetry and fiction in various magazines and journals, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A new musical recording, All I'll Never Need, was released by Cool Midget Records in September 2004. Further information is available on his website Amen founded and continues to edit the award-winning literary bimonthly, The Pedestal Magazine (


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