ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

A journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Four Poems by Joyce S. Brown.



Little Hiding Hood,
of no particular color,
set out to find her grandmother
in order to learn how
to play harmonica and sing.
She knew her grandmother
had died in one past decade
or another, but she went
anyway, to find whatever.

At a certain address
she found her mother wearing
a flowered house dress
having a drink and a smoke.
"Take off that hood!"
her mother said. The long
red fingernails poked
at Hiding's face and hair.
"Where is Gramma's harmonica?"
she wailed. "Gone! Gone!"
said the smoker, jumping into bed.
"And get that song out of your head!"



Last Period, Grade 6, City School

Nothing Will Work Unless You Do.
Maya Angelou

Could someone read the first sentence?
Amber, raise your hand: don't shout out.
Jordan, put your feet on the floor.
Who can tell me what pre-writing is?
Wayne, what's your question?
You don't need a drink of water.
David: stop that. Put it away.
Chair on the floor, Jordan.
Demonte and David, stop.
I'm going to start writing names on the board.
How do we make our thesis statement?
Chairs should be on the floor.
I want to hear from someone other than Sirina.
Denise, can you help Robert?
What is a grammatical error?
Yes, but what kind of mistake?
Let's put that away; it smells awful.
Donte, I've asked you to stop.
Not right now, Wayne.
Amber, STOP.
"We have it in our power to begin
the world again."
says Tom Paine from the bulletin board.
The back of Amber's chair says fuck.



Hans Anderson's swan

has found its way to the pond
here at the foot of the hill.
I wonder, watching the bird
glide in winter-black water,
if it feels its lightness among
the dun-colored others, a flock
of Canada geese who seem
to have given up going south.
Does its difference push the swan
up or down the pecking order, or
are its feathers of no consequence
at all? Without my glasses on, I see
blurred white dots around the pond:
goose breasts or necks moving
above the water like little doves.




Rewrite the dream: someone must go
somewhere and do something.
Someone else is not facing someone.

Called or not called, dreams
like God, come.

She opens her eyes, glad that night
and dreams are over. She is struck
with a sense that the world—
not the planet, but her particular world
or someone else's —may be ending,
or that she will be cold, or sick,
or stupid, or pushed aside that day.

She tries to give no thought to thought.
The body is all, and is light on the stair.
The dinner and the dinner hour
are the same most nights. The bed,
the man are the same. The freighted
snoring. In the dark hours, she is
the someone who must do something;
she is the someone facing away.


Joyce S. Brown is a poet who lives in Baltimore. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Yankee, Smartish Pace, The Tennessee Quarterly, The Christian Science Monitor, The American Scholar, The Journal of Medical Humanities, Commonweal, The Maryland Poetry Review, Potomac Review and other journals. She has published a book of poems, Call And Answer in collaboration with local artist Mary Swann. For 10 years she was a teacher of fiction and poetry writing in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars.

This is her first appearance in Offcourse.

Return to Offcourse Index.