ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

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


Ten New Poems by Rebecca Lu Kiernan.


In the News

In world news that day
Pakistan beat Bangladesh by 89 runs
At Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur.

Nokia shares plummeted to 6.55 euros,
Lowest since '98.

In Korolyov, just outside Moscow,
The six man crew of the Mars500
Climaxed their 257 days
Pent up in the mock spacecraft
With a simulated landing
On the red planet.
The Russian Mission Control Center broadcasted live
The faux spacewalk 
Of Alexander Smoleyevsky and Diego Urbina.
The mission had a second agenda beyond the technical,
The experiment of what the isolation of 250 days of flight,
30 Days of orbit, and the 240 days returning to Earth
Would do to the psyche.

Tiger Woods apologized
For spitting on the green at Dubai.

The producers of the 3 million dollar Bollywood film,
"Dear Friend Hitler" launched a marketing blitz
At the Berlin film festival.
It seems they plan to lighten up the Holocaust.

Four more bodies were recovered
From the Shahalam Market fire trap.
DNA testing to identify 3.
The cell phone SIM card
On the 4th body
Divulged enough information to notify the family.

Charlie Sheen told reporters he is ready
To return to "Two and a Half Men"
After his rehab break.

In Florida news that day
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Announced the Stardust spacecraft's encounter
With comet Tempel 1.
At it's closest kiss of 112 miles
It snapped 72 kaleidoscopic images.

The Naples Daily News
Reported an Immokalee woman was arrested
For having sex in a house of "ill fame".
According to the police blotter,
Martha Torres de la Cruz
Of the 800 block of West Main Street
Performed the act in the west end of a trailer
For a fee of twenty-three dollars.

Thousands of sharks passed near Boca Raton's beaches
En route to breeding grounds
Without stopping for a bite.

In local news,
On the street of Bent Arrow,
Mrs. Parker was trolling the bushes
In a purple, bleach blotched moo moo,
Her ferret having escaped for the third time.
Jimmy was going door to door
To find a ride to the craft shop where he works
As his car was broken down again,
And a man who had been secretly
Sobbing in the shower that morning
Thought about giving a woman
One final kiss
Before he went to work
And she finished moving out of the house,
But he knew he could not do it without breaking
And he did not want to traumatize the dog
Any further,
So he looked at the floor and the walls and his hands
When he said goodbye,
Anywhere but her face,
For fear some faint shade of affection would remain
After he put so much energy
Into being hated.

Ah, the peace
Of having absolutely nothing to lose.



The Story of Us

I tried to convince a bat he was a man.
I jammed his wings into pant-legs of blue jeans.
He flopped around and fell off the couch.
He panicked and twirled in circles
And made it difficult to free him.

I cooked spaghetti and insisted he eat it.
Have you ever seen bat diarrhea?
It is violet and endless
And you can never fully remove
The stench and the stain.

I told him he was worthy of love
But he was hanging upside down
From the ceiling fan
Blood-intoxicated, asleep.

The saddest thing was watching him
Attempt to operate
The Lazy Boy recliner,
Pushing the lever
And popping up fast
Trying to stretch open the apparatus.
He flew back and forth
Until he passed out.

He cried so hard when I told him
I finally could see
A bat is a bat is a bat
And it was ridiculous of me
To coax him into the
And whisper, Darling.

He flew back into the abyss,
Somewhat cocky
At having been right all along,
But the colony does not trust him anymore,
And he can never fit into
Either of his old worlds.

The house will never sell...
The stench and the stain.
Who could live so haunted?
Even we could not survive
The Story of Us.



My Beloved Amateur

Hummingbird cake can be dry,
Must be slightly over-baked
To dull the overbearing sweet,
Best served warm
With lemon-nutmeg butter drizzle.

Bat-wing soup is a taste acquired.
It doesn't seem to matter
That you have eaten turtle ,alligator, eel,
All of which taste like chicken
If you hold your breath while chewing.

I am telling you,
My Beloved Amateur,
You cannot purchase bat flesh.
You have to do the killing
You cannot shoot Him
Even with a silver bullet
As the wing must remain intact,
And let's face it,
If your aim was that good
You would not be Hellbent on this task.
You cannot poison Him
Without tainting yourself.
He is too intelligent to be trapped
And He can see you coming
In the Dark.

My Beloved Amateur,
You must become a bat to catch one,
Sitting immobile
In His silent blue-black net of night.

Trust me, He will find you
And the only way to kill Him
Is to love Him,
Which is easy
Because He is so pitiful, curious
And affection-starved.

Bat-wing soup is an acquired taste.
How can I explain?
It has notes of winter plum,
Ether-soaked butterflies,
The heartleaf vine in rainrot,
Brown sugar,
Candied apples with razors inside,
And your soul,
My Beloved Amateur,
Your Soul.



The Bat's Shopping List

1  A firing squad to kill the empty hours.

2  Fractured cup to catch my share of rain.

3  Tektite amulet  to protect me from her powers.

4  Surgical tape to fix my broken wing.

5  Lemon peel to erase the scent of her skin.

6  Clove to dismantle the taste of her kiss.

7  Willow bark to prosthesize her amputated limbs.

8  White noise device to drown the laughter I miss.

9  Time travel machine to prevent my offense.

10  Proof of my existence.   



Our Beautiful Li(f)e

The day came
Turning red and violet leaves
Over and over again.
As if looking for an answer.

The answer came
As a lightning-struck branch
Suffering a soft summer storm.

The storm came
As the starving wolf
Just before the kill.

The kill came
Sacred as a prayer
Before dying.

The dying will take me
A little time.
I keep seeing
Our beautiful li(f)e
Between the turning leaves
And entangling vines.



Nobody's Hell

Our nights are nobody's Hell.
We are civil in our silent dinner,
Clear the plates
And feed the nervous dog
Who cowers in her corner
Doing the math of (x) minus laughter
Plus a scowl times (y)
Times muffled crying
Equals (z).

The neighbors are busy.
They smile and wave
Behind their tractors, rakes and brooms.
No one asks and we don't tell.

We used to play Boggle
And make love
And dream so big, so bright
And trust the universe to get it right.

Now we watch t.v.
I mean we plan the shows
Tighter than the president's schedule
So we don't have a second to spare,
That our eyes might accidentally collide
To see the ugly empty stare
We know is dancing there.

We go to bed about thirty minutes apart.
Whoever gets there first
Pretends to be asleep
When the other comes.
I smell your hair.
I feel your breath.
I dream we are the couple
Who moved into this house.
I cannot recall
How we killed them
Or why,
Or if we allowed them
A trembly kiss goodbye.

We impersonate them so well.
Who are we kidding?
Our nights are everybody's Hell.



The Bat's Reply

I am the loneliest bat,
Silvery blue-black
As a strewnfield tektite.

I ruin everything I kiss.
I kiss everything I ruin.

I can forget everything I said.
I can remove the gown of an saint
Without waking her,
But I detest the tart blood
Of the incorruptible.

I fear she would adore me,
Then I would have to chew out her eyes
And she would leave me
Broom-beaten and starved.

But at least she would be blind
To what I have always been.

I held her hand in a dream.
I almost was a man.


Haunt Couture

My ghost wears crisp navy suits,
Pink fishnet stockings with sensible shoes,
Bell-bottom jeans with a tie-dyed halter top.

She knows every way to skin a cat,
And when it's better
To wait out its attempt on a tenth life.

Her kiss is the sound of dog feet
Dancing in the heliotrope garden.

She is the hand held at your deathbed.
She is the silence that sirens you awake.
She is the reason you leave fingerprint bruises.

Why don't you let go?


Five, September

I used to trust the universe.
Now I interrogate suspects.

I wear brass knuckles
When I park in city garages,
But I never look under the car for rapists.

I once wore translucent red lingerie.
Now I sleep in an Air Force tee-shirt.

I would not drag your drunken body
Out of a fire,
But I might disrupt your sleep
At the third or fourth spark.

If time travel were not so dangerous,
I would go back to Five September
And behead you orchids at the door.

I might sit by your mother's
Claw-footed tub,
Brew her a cup of tea,
Have a kind word for her
And keep her suicide
From threading its dark seam
So raggedly
Through the unraveling cloak of your life.


This letter is an unbreakable spell.
It is coded and the key is in your door.

It is written in the stars,
Carved in the tree that shades your grave.

It is the lucky number 7.

Cool and calm,
Yet, reddens your face.

It is the picnic day
The dog sat in the potato salad.

It is the angel who breaks down your car
To remove you from the impending crash.

It is love you never had.
It is the little boy who got no attention
And learned to need nothing at all,
And taught everyone he touched
Not to expect much.

It is a kiss, a promise, a warning.

It is time travel and you discover it.
You are so unworthy of this gift,
Groundhog Daying yourself to death
In your bourbon-scented coma of a life.



Rebecca Lu Kiernan has published many times in Offcourse (see previous issue), in ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION, MS. MAGAZINE, NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, SPACE AND TIME and numerous books and magazines in the U.S. and Australia.  She was nominated for a Rhysling Award for her cautionary tale, "When a Snake Bites You in the Ass".  She is a regular contributor to BEWILDERING STORIES
Canada's Ygdrasil Literary Magazine is dedicating an issue to the presentation of "Letters To the Bat" in its entirety. This series is a dark follow up to her previously published series, "Rummy Park", "An Unkindness of Ravens", and "Jepatio Street".
Founding editor of GECKO MAGAZINE, she lives in Destin, Florida and hosts the Eternal Poem Project at

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