ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Four Poems, by Francis Raven.


A Gaunt Formalism

There is a limit to height.
At some point the water won’t reach.

There is a limit to manners.
At some point emotions won’t reach.



A Judgemental Raven

Nobody would judge you
If you weren’t so easy to judge
If you didn’t make so many stupid moves
Like that house
What are you
Living in the 18th Century?
And how are you financing it
Anyway?  I really don’t think
It’s responsible to own and rent another apartment
Just because
You don’t like
The 18th Century either.
After all, you bought it
You should live with it.
I’m not judging you
Well, I’m not judging you
As anybody
But you.
You should have thought more
About it
Before he
Moved across
The country
For you.
You should have thought about what you were doing
What he was doing
And how those two sets of facts
Were supposed to meet.
His expectations were higher.
Uprooted, he needed to be met with love and support.
Your expectations were more
In line with
How you usually act
In situations
That fluster
Your emotions.
Of course, it’s not the end of the world.
None of this is the end of the world.
However, divorce is like bankruptcy
A failure
Though not moral in tone
A failure nevertheless.
You were perhaps too shortsighted about the meal
About what sort of preparations it would entail.
That’s why we’re always eating takeout.
You just don’t seem to be able to plan to be in somebody’s eyes.
Or, alternately, you just don’t seem to know yourself very well.



A Potential Restaurateur's Blowback

I don’t care what you think
I’m opening this fucking restaurant.  There won’t be much that I don’t know.
It has a name, but I don’t want you to steal it.
You usually steal things from me if I say them out loud.
That’s why the only thing I say around you are insults.
I’m the one who called you a commoner.
It was because you were common
By which I meant that you did common things.
I laid the trash beside the compactor.
I wouldn’t wait. 
The restaurant is on the corner.
It’s not there yet.
It’ll be on the corner.
I haven’t presented the concept to the liquor board yet.
But we’re gonna have a lot of liquor, mainly wine.
The problem is that if I attend that sort of disdainful meeting
Someone is going to call himself a concerned citizen.
He’s going to complain about the rats that we haven’t brought out yet.
He’s going to complain about the smoke and the hoodlums.
He’s going to complain so I’m beating him to the punch.
I just want to say that he started it.
He started it later on.
By which I mean that it was your fault.
It was your fault since you said that I had no business opening a restaurant
In this historic neighborhood that I didn’t live in.
You said that since I wasn’t part of its history I shouldn’t be a part of its future.
I remember that part.
Most of what I remember is a feeling, but that’s verbatim.
Before you called I should have said that
If you call you should hang up so we don’t have to talk.
Neither of us wanted to.
I’m the one you called.
Unfortunately, you didn’t hang up before we talked.



A Rite of Questions

It’s hard to know which religion bows before
unnaturally blue and yellow flowers.  Their deistic haircuts,
conundrum headdresses, offer few clues
and yet his white button up shirt
could have appeared
in a folk dance
I might have once seen.  This is America of course, as
globalization nevertheless entails that we remain
in one country
at a time.  The back of the procession
moves to the front
and the front stays put.
This appears to be a battle formation
in a boulevard’s bitter island,
monument which is hidden
by a carefully turning oak.  That’s a description
of the time of year. However, the descriptions
their jackets make on their shirts
sound like mourning, but it’s too public to be a funeral.
Nevertheless, their outfits remain the same;
however, their hand-cobbled shoes
kick waterbottles, technologically. 
So they only wear this garb during ceremonies
and that’s not really an answer
as to why their expressions appear more patriotic
than religious, save for the cameras.


Francis Raven's books include the volumes of poetry, Architectonic Conjectures (Silenced Press, 2010), Provisions (Interbirth, 2009), Shifting the Question More Complicated (Otoliths, 2007) and Taste: Gastronomic Poems (Blazevox, 2005) as well as the novel, Inverted Curvatures (Spuyten Duyvil, 2005). His poems have been published in Bath House, Chain, Big Bridge, Bird Dog, Mudlark, Caffeine Destiny, and Spindrift among others. His critical work can be found in Jacket, Logos, Clamor, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, The Electronic Book Review, The Emergency Almanac, The Morning News, The Brooklyn Rail, 5 Trope, In These Times, The Fulcrum Annual, Rain Taxi, and Flak. His website is

Return to Offcourse Index.