Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

Poems by Richard Fein.



When he was twixt twenty and forty in salary as well as age,
college educated but not with post graduate degree,
white, for back then black was an ignored market,
just married, but no kids yet, city apartment dweller and of course loving baseball
pure all-American young-male mediocre, he along with his life-style kindred
were paid thirty bucks and free sandwiches to be seated at a round table
while behind one-way mirrors market researchers observed them
turning their thumbs up or down on a mens-clothing designer's career.
Thumbs down for tangerine leisure pants with a blue-button fly instead of a zipper.
Afterwards, their Scantron profiles dutifully marked with #2 pencils
were fed into a humongous mainframe hungry for data, so years later
these knights of conspicuous consumption were once more summoned to that round table
but to pass judgement on an ad for a product rather than the product itself.
An ad agency's solvency teetered on their balance.
And all for seventy bucks, given inflation, and stale sandwiches
or perhaps even the leftover sandwiches from before.
All of them still white, still college educated,
their existence still falling between brutally average numbers,
and worst of all still married, but escaping to that other ball game as
often as possible.
Sad conclave of the predictable, that data feed of ones and mostly zeros,
clinging to the normal line of oh-hum raised in the exact middle of the bell curve.
And the product ad they were deemed so qualified to judge?
That revelation shocked them, made them breathless and limp.
Was nothing about them secret from the all-knowing purveyors of Viagra?



"Naked New Guinea tribesmen are palpably modest
when sporting their foot-long penis sheaths."
Natural History Magazine

Nakedness assaults the prudish eye, but not the nose.
But pretend we are like most mammals
with scent rather than sight sparking our passions.
And if redolence were erotic reality,
then the slightest feminine stink would be as seductive
as Delilah's exposed breasts
and a strong musky stench as sexy
as Samson's rippling muscles.
In a primal forest of odors,
underarm sweat would seduce blossoming buds into deflowering.
Imagine the Victorians,
with clothespins clamped on upturned prissy proboscises,
dutifully shielding themselves against sinful smells for Queen and England
Thus the royal perfumers would be the dread censors,
guardians of the tasteful.
Tasteful, but with our human natures
lust will still find its way.
Even if we were deaf, dumb, blind, numb,
and our stuffed noses dripping with snot we'd yet defy the puritan within
by tasting the sweet salt of skin with a furtive lick of the tongue.




With clouds hanging heavy above and shrouding the stars,
I look down from a mile high at the rural midnight emptiness.
Yet I discern three lights,
two headlights along an unlit road nearing a stationary one,
a window light perhaps, a window light of some solitary house.
The approaching headlights must be bathing that house in light.
I can almost see it. Is the traveler near journey's end?
But the headlights might also be a false dawn
if they pass by and go deeper into the night,
leaving the house and all in it
to fade back into that one lone luminescent dot
punctuating a black forest.
But I will never know for the passing wing now eclipses
all my vision of the lights below.
What's left to see is the reflection of the cabin light,
and translucent me staring back at myself in the cabin window,
while the wing shudders through the unsettled air.
And at that wingtip the white strobes
might be seen by the parallel traveler below
as he journeys along a dark road and I fly high in a starless sky.



And they lived happily ever after, sort of, well not really.
Prince Charming was indeed charming at first.
But all that jousting with his lance was no game.
And he kept rearranging the wall tapestries,
especially the ones with unicorns, big unicorns.
The castle was too capacious to keep clean and too cold.
The ser
vants pilfered the forks,
which was no loss since forks were not yet invented.
The missing gold plates were another matter,
for he always accused her whenever he saw her,
which wasn't often,
because he was a prince among princes, many, many, princes,
And all of them were deft with their codpieces and their digits,
including their toes after scrubbing their feet.
And while the social climbing princess had no similar desire
for her coterie of ladies in waiting; nevertheless,
the ladies tutored her in all the proper gyrations.
The monks who often visited were lechers and so offered some hope.
For they desired to minister to both prince and princess.
She was tempted to test what she had learned.
How sinuously she'd walk down the church aisle.
How far she'd lean over during morning and especially evening prayers.
But the headsman's ax was the only divorce.
And axes were hung on every wall along with crucifixes.
No midnight climb down castle walls on cords of her own hair.
Instead coins bribed the night watch.
She scurried back to her step mother's humble farm barefoot,
for she had been faking it.
How could a stupid glass slipper ever really fit?
But no shy young virgin returned.
Her knapsack held golden plates and many pilfered diamonds,
enough to escape to a distant land
and build there a decent house bedecked with red lanterns.
Then she made her freeloading step-kin earn their keep.
She had learned a few tricks and they turned even more.
In a kingdom of queens she was addressed as Madam.


Grape juice from an overturned Styrofoam cup,
the dye is cast and penetrates my oriental rug,
blotching the expensive fibers
and robbing this luxurious carpet of its magic.
Most of humanity would quickly find a cloth to wipe it,
or a paper towel if you cared little for the ecology of trees,
for the grape juice permeates the carpet.
But to serve as a prophylactic to such purple unmajesty
I'd have to lift pen from paper
and derail my train of thought moving between the blue lines in my notebook.
Yes, most of humankind would seek to quickly wipe away the stain,
but instead I compose an ode on how grape juice ruins a rug,
for I'm a poet or at least fancy myself one.
In the logic of Venn diagrams are poets
intersecting subsets within humanity's great circle
or so far off center they revolve around all others
like gas-giant planets in their outermost orbits?



God the agnostic,
like devout bible-believer Newton sat under a tree.
But no overripe fruit knocked revelation into this divine doubter.
Above, one tree branch was having its turn in sunlight,
while it shrouded the branch below.
And that sun-starved branch was shedding its leaves
as its stems emerged as skeletal fingers.
And farther above, inches closer to the sun,
yet another sapling branch was emerging from the trunk,
casting the faintest shadow on the sunlit branch below.
God sat amid the roots and fallen branches,
in the dank humus, near the pale mushrooms and decaying apples.
He couldn't see the sun
through the canopy of dead leaves and tangled branches,
though the sun was his first creation.
The agnostic recalled it was he who planted all those seeds eons ago.
And then the atheist bit into one of the many fallen rotten apples
and spit out the seeds.

Richard Fein was Finalist in The 2004 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition and has been published in many web and print journals, such as Southern Review, Morpo Review, Oregon East Southern Humanities Review Touchstone, Windsor Review, Maverick, Parnassus Literary Review, Small Pond, Kansas Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, Exquisite Corpse, Terrain. His work appeared in Offcourse #17 Two Poems and in Offcourse #12 Six Poems.

He also has an interest in digital photography and has published many photos. Samples can be found on

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