Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

Poems by Alex Cigale.



                                                          After Apollinaire


The surly attendant who collects the coats at the cemeteries
The mason’s death encounters the coming of the cloisters
And the decorous interiors of the shop windows
That parallel the sales that boutiques demote
In lieu of the devout surreal
The grimacing manikins pour out eternity

Arriving in Munich the deputies of quince-winged juries
Jettison entrees of purloined premier father-fat gizzards
Dancing in the cemeteries after dessert
Eating the clanking of the dentistry
Deviant tutors of the bourgeois set
Exposing the vetting of the possible lemmings
In attendance at the sepulcher

Sudden rapids of memory’s commas
The lazy views of allurement
Vitreous cellulite in cellular vitrines
The seal of the pupil’s dune apocalypse vivacious

The terraces that are the plates of the infinite
Come up to the Levant Galilee
De Mille-covered  mythologies immobile
The angel in diamond breezes touts vitriol
To my deathly consternation
That beckons the mines of Lautréamont

May’s leery visage allures attitudes
Deviant-rend inebriated loins funereal
The seal’s fate and the terror of perdition
Lure aspects of phantasm gory

Sin’s less is more rejoicing
The voyeur’s corpse’s trespass enters you luminous
Else radiant devours Loire’s amber subservient
Come see the veritable
Sit, eat, leer as life passes youth by



My Aurelia: Le Rêve de la Vie



            My Aurelia: Le Rêve de la Vie.  The case of the famous poet Gérard de Nerval whose real name was Labrunie.  Invented a name for himself with Dr. Blanche, no tabula rasa but an erased palimpsest.  “I managed to color this group of figures by squeezing the juice of grasses and flowers.”  Revivifying and reifying, imbuing representation with the essences of things themselves, sanctifying and sacrificial, perversely vital.  Diagnosis: Erotomania.  “I lost myself  in dream before the beloved idol.”

            Achilles Rizzoli’s symbolization – people embodied as architectural space.  Buildings propose a city (Y.T.T.E.; Yield To Total Elation,) civilization nurtured by a suckling she-wolf.  His mother, at the foot of whose bed he slept his entire life until her death, invariably depicted as a cathedral, Emma’s Temple.  Sending hand-drawn birthday cards to her every year at his own address for twenty years after her death.  In the absence of detachment she continued inside him as an idealized object.  A.T.E.: Achilles Tectonic Exhibit.  A few neighborhood children came to view the one-man show in his sitting room.  Art filled the void he felt left by the inability to engage with people sexually and socially: a 43-year old virgin prince.

            Henry Darger, a bandage roller/lavatory cleaner, discovered by landlord, photographer Nathan Lerner, months before his death.  A miserable childhood: mother dead when he was four giving birth to his sister who was given up for adoption.  Abandoned by father at age 8.  At 12, committed to Lincoln Asylum for Feebleminded Children.  The loss of his sister had proved pivotal.  Collecting stories and photos of kidnap and murder victims (“the Great Drotegar,”) he removed, collaged, and traced pictures, a process akin to adoption.  Devout Catholic, attended mass daily.  Diagnosis: masturbator.

            Malcolm McKesson’s drawings, erections of sexual excitation coupled with anxious torment and basic asexuality.  The good boy syndrome: the double bind of growing up vs. remaining innocent, a world dominated by internally strong but socially impotent women.  Hypnagogic sadomasochism, a life spent in servitude to powerful women  (a la Crumb’s Mr. Natural).  Matriarchy is freedom in bondage:  “Mistress reducing man to rage.”

            Morton Bartlett, Harvard-educated, orphaned at age 8, made an alternate world of half-sized children with complete hand-made wardrobes, photographed and kept safe locked away, a replacement family, sublimations for a divided self.  Aloise Corbaz’s lifelong infatuation with Emperor Wilhelm II, her love letters, filling in of gaps, covering the entire surface of the paper, as though the biophobic’s nature is to abhor a vacuum, abandonment. “It came to kissing.  They were embarrassed.  So they wore glasses.” 

            Memory functions by fixing things in organically spatialized forms, semantic mapping onto neural networks. Roland Wilkie’s “fearless water,” unremitting and brutal, sublimated pedophilia and voluntary commitment.  A mania or obsession, a compulsive attachment to favorite materials and infinite repetitions of the same forms.  Martin Ramirez, making a virtue of necessity, flattened paper cups and glued them together with a paste made from his spit, mashed potatoes, and chewed bread, metabolizing the confused outer world into art.  An entire dream world like that of the afterlife in the Egyptian Book of the Dead constructed out of stages and tunnels, with horses and trains. Karl Genzil, Prinzhorn sculptor: “A piece of wood in front of me.  There is a hypnosis in it.  If I follow it, something comes of it.  Otherwise there is going to be a fight.”

Source: John M. MacGregor's The Discovery of the Art of the Insane (Princeton, Oxford: 1989)



Six days I rested dreamed yawned read then stirred


picked up my pen heaved retched and spewed
while all the world’s climatologists were
going apeshit over the core sample studies
dissecting the evidence for heavenly signs

of obstacles reading data like bird entrails
aggregate numbers for distributive aridity
conniving with the nightly news audience
to assuage several degrees of odious duty

incongruously sedate incomparably sedulous
irrigating with astute results high altitude
timber sales so that forest fires don’t spread
into the nimby namby-pamby of residue

slumped in the backseat of a crop duster plane
while circling doing fly-bys of the Pentagon
I told you I had never escaped from
Cape Canaveral wearing adult diapers


in the pecking order of the desert birds
in the alpha males dominant growl
they don’t call them the family jewels
for nothing in the throes of filial piety

after all I too was a consumer in the vale
of the mighty dollar doing the palooka
polka down rural alleyways braying
incontinently I’m doomed we’re all doomed

manifest destiny mission fulfilled
ships remodeled and outfitted as shopping malls
mixed steel and reinforced cement construction
you could never be too stern or too silent

may the priests of commerce smile and confer
upon you their blessings lining your pockets
extending a line of high-grade credit rating
on planet Honda every sales day is a holiday


the trade papers raved the stock markets rallied
cell towers lined the main streets of steel city
U.S.A. Gary Indiana even sadder than Toledo
scanning the skies your soothsayer-advocates




Filling in the Blanks; Pleasure in Killing


We threw our money around till it was gone. 
The darkness that blankets and embattles all
helped me understand my thirst for poison.

Of sound mind, the glare of an empty page,
the midpoint between my life and my death,
seemed barren and bland, a blankety blank.

The idea that people kill for fun
left me blank.  “Don’t trust anyone,” it said.
“Don’t trust him: he’s a blank, he wants to blank.”

What does “killing for sport” mean?  The liar
lies for gain, the swindler wants things. Because
it brings terror and agony, point blank.

I have the power.  I choose death over life.
Taking life has made me feel more alive,
dazzled by lust for control, a blank check.

A common enough preoccupation,
building a womb/protective environment,
digging a blank all the way to China.

I preferred blanking out, simulating
death’s temporary triumph over time.
My greatest fear was being ordinary.

Gabriel García Marquez’ Shiner


In a movie theater showing Alive!
the story of the Andean plane crash
human survival through cannibalism
Llosa rushes up to Marquez as though
to embrace and hug but instead decks him

blood gushing everywhere.  Decades later
it was assumed their friendship foundered
over politics; Llosa had began a drift
to the right with his unsuccessful
bid for the Peruvian presidency.

We now know the truth: Marquez comforted
Llosa’s wife during a bitter divorce.
Like Gore Vidal, responding from the floor
Words fail Norman Mailer yet again –
Marquez won: Perú cero, Colombia uno.


The best way to grow hair is to listen


The best way to grow hair is to listen;
bears keeping in mind it’s bound to happen.
You prick up what you’ve got and the world
is a mystery (all out of doors, of course.)

Most of this conversation is automotive.
The cars fume and hum; an ambulance chases
away silence with a wail, wagging its tail.
Here are all the dogs that have gone missing.

Four generations of one family passes
your open window.  An old woman says
we come in pairs, old man John, young Johnny,
grandchild Jana, grandmother Johanna.

The toddler staring at her attentively
though pre-verbal understands and forms a
world-view of radical subjectivity.
Car doors slam shut flapping like loose mouth parts.

Splat: fish or a wallet hitting the street.
An airplane roams roaring homeward port-wise,
its prolonged, distant, percussive hum and whirl
as though a boiler had grown wings and snarls.

The fifth trick tire of a tripping tired wheel,
its thread stutters and struts, sputters, rattles.
The crickets are pretending it's Christmas.
Somewhere far away the sea is singing.

A dead man walks home alone saddened.



Alex Cigale's poems have appeared recently in print in The Cafe, Colorado, Global City, Green Mountains and North American reviews, Gargoyle, Hanging Loose, Redactions, Tar River Poetry,32 Poems, and Zoland Poetry; some of these can be read at Fiera Lingue.

His poems are forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving and St. Petersburg Review.
His online publications include Contrary, Drunken Boat, Future Cycle, H_ngm_n, McSweeney's, Potomac Journal, Qarrtsiluni, Salt River Review, and Venereal Kittens.
An essay on the relationship of Found Art to found poetry and the verse/prose distinction can be found online at Quarter After Eight.
His translations from the Russian are in Crossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry, in The Manhattan, St. Ann's, and Yellow Medicine reviews, in the previous issue of this journal, Offcourse Issue #41, December 2009, and in: (8 poets in his translation from Crossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry, including Miniature and Minimalist poems by Ivan Akhmetyev, Mikhail Nilin, Mikhail Sukhotin, and Andrei Turkin) 4 installments, Dec./Jan., including Three Russian Minimalist poets: Ivan Akhmetyev, Mikhail Faynerman, and Alexander Makarov-Krotkov; and a seminal Serialist Minimalist text from 1965 by Alexei Khvostenko) (See links to previous monthly columns near bottom of page: Bryusov, Balmont, Khlebnikov, Kharms, Vvedensky, Mandelstam, and Tsvetaeva.) (3 Minimalist poems by Jan Satunovsky) (11 minimalist poems by Alexander Makarov-Krotkov published in Yellow Medicine Review)


Alex photo  credit Hugh Gilmore


Alex Cigale was born in Chernovtsy, Ukraine and lived in St. Petersburg, Russia from 1966 through 1972.  He spent most of the 80s in Ann Arbor, where he completed a BA in Russian Studies and Slavic Languages and Literatures and an MFA in Poetry at the University of Michigan, and since 1990 has lived in New York City.



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