ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Miriam Kotzin.


A Penny for Your Thoughts: How to Write a Sustainable Feminist Poem

Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
I must give up my plastic ballpoint pen—
and pencil (number three)—for these restrain
my pent up thoughts. These tools are made for men.

Yet pens and pencils both are well equipped
to penetrate my verse with unforeseen
priapic, pens-up imagery. The dipped
quill, like a dripping pen, is still obscene.

But here I’ll write my penultimate thought,
that of an independent woman, and
worth more than what your penny, cheapskate, bought.
I pen my malediction; here’s my stand.

Claim the penis mightier than the word?
My darling, pending proof, I am not stirred.



How to Write a Sustainable Protest Poem


First, choose a victim.
You can find them
everywhere these

days. And then pick
a villain. Take care
that his (or her) name

is easy to pronounce
and spell. The victim ought
to be photogenic, but

his (or her) name
may have many vowels
or consonants one

after the other just
so long as he (or she)
has a nickname, too.

Underlying principles
are a snap. Almost
any abstract noun

will do: “peace,” “justice,”
“liberty” spring to mind.
Leave righteous outrage

for the reader himself
(or herself) to bring
to the page. But small

children and animals—
the earth, saplings, make
the best victims. Who

will admit to hating
these? W.C. Fields is
dead. Write the poem

in your own blood
on the villain’s nude
torso to show your heart
is, even now, pure.




Who’s leaning slouched against the jungle gym?
If we walk closer, we can see his face.
The lamppost near him flickers and grows dim.
He looks towards us, and he begins to pace.

He moves between the jungle gym and slide.
He stops, looks at his wrist, must see the time.
He shakes his head as though he can’t decide.
He grabs a bar, and he begins to climb.

He perches, balanced, at the very top.
He holds his arms straight up above his head.
He teeters, sways, then grabs the bar to stop.
It seems he’ll jump; he swings his legs instead.

So who—or what —keeps him out here so late?
We stand in shadows, too, and watch him wait.



Miriam N. Kotzin's fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in print in such publications as Offcourse, The Pedestal Magazine, Eclectica, Boulevard, Southern Humanities Review, and the Mid-American Review. Her work has received five nominations for Pushcart Prizes. She has published two collections of poetry (Reclaiming the Dead, New American Press, 2008; Weights & Measures, Star Cloud Press 2009), a collection of flash fiction, Just Desserts, Star Cloud Press, 2010. A third collection of poetry, Taking Stock, will be published by Star Cloud in 2011. Her story "Country Music" was a Notable Story in 2005 Story South's Million Writers. She teaches creative writing and literature at Drexel University, where she also directs the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing. She is a contributing editor for Boulevard and a founding editor of Per Contra.

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