ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Anne Babson



Let me tango suggestively in heaven. Let me debate anarchists and smarmy debutantes.
Let the cherubim spill beer on the dance floor.  Let the peril of a first kiss,
The fleeting possibility of a slap, and drunken, naked Noah squeeze past me in a narrow hallway.
In paradise, let the saints flirt outrageously with bad boys too old for them, hair greased back.

Let me hear the redeemed of the LORD say so:
Oh!  Mercy Mercy!
Marvin Gaye and Percy Sledge!
No! No town Motown!
Job and friends behind His hedge!

Is the smell of mimosa your idea of sin?
Is the drum solo from “Whole Lotta Love” crime?
Does your Yahweh despise the taste of garlic?
Would the sky fall if the floorboards up there creaked?

Let me hear all the high-flying spirits sigh:
Spice!  Bok Choi!  Bacon!
Tandoori and key lime pie!
Table before our enemies,
Someone pass the curly fries!

Let the Most High invite communists who don’t believe in God, despite certain proof.
Let them insist it is all a posthumous plot to lull them into opiated complacency.
Let them read banned books aloud, for once, this their heaven, everyone applauding.
Let them wonder, “Does this hurrah mean I’ve sold out the worker?”

Let me hear the hosts of heaven boogaloo:
Goal!  Touch down! Ten points!
Eight ball in the side pocket!
Bull’s eye! Bingo! Banco!  Hail
Homecoming king of kings!

Is the Messiah a pompous white car dealer?
Is the virgin a repressed and screeching monk?
Is Saul among the prophets?  Can he sleep at night yet?
Does he still secretly meet witches while David dances?

Let me hear the televangelists swing and sway it:
Glass! Glossolalia!
Glib words into camera two.
Pink polyester!
Aquanet! Dippity Doo!

Let the Levites pour champagne on our heads.  Let the soccer star whip her shirt off
Over and over again as the last goal is scored in slow motion playbacks. 
Let the Scottish racecar driver caress the fender and weep gratefully.
Let the announcer scream, “The Dodgers win the pennant!  The Dodgers win the pennant!”

Let me hear the Roman martyrs gladiate:
Ave! Ave! Ave!
Vulgate Latin fancy free!
Gloria patri et matri!
In nuptias victory!

Are your angels trumpeting taps instead of revile?
Are your seraphim shooting off blanks in the dark?
Do you sanctimonious so-and-sos sit on higher clouds than the joyful prodigals returned?
Do the Pharisees make you sad, juicy?

Let me hear the seed of Abraham scatter it:
Holy! Holy! Holy!
Ginsberg sprung from Babylon!
Emma Goldman, baby,
Bop to your revolution!

Let John the Baptist don fresh linens and smell like hyacinth.  Let him eat no more locusts – let him try ceviche from the tapas bar.  Let all the self-flagellating medieval saints adorn themselves with Body glitter.  Let them play quarters in corner lounge chairs.  Let them try “Truth or Dare.”
Let the pilgrim fathers unbuckle, stretch, and learn double entendre drinking songs.

Let me hear the friends of Francis tweet it out:
Madonna! My Sharona!
Rose of Sharon wilderness!
Shake your fine maracas!
Lilies of the field your dress!

Who still refuses to eat from Peter’s picnic vision?
Why did Jesus bother crashing all those parties?  Why sit straight?
Do you think you look dignified to the one who carved your bellybutton?
Why, then, does the universe, viewed from afar, look like a guinguette lantern?
Who, then, created the place you expect to spend forever?




Mama, thank you for enduring such cramped quarters
On the boat, snug and stinky, tossed as you surely
Were from shore to shore, our potential the secret
Nestled in endometrial mass where you hid
Us.  Every bit as invisible as newly
Fertilized eggs inside you, we tramps stowed away
And climbed out with you.  Even if your first standing

Was on auction block here, we sentried inside you
Ticking as surely as a time bomb, invisible
To those who held you hostage.  Mama, with each rape,
We ticked louder, yet more sure to arrive, the real
Immigrants to the real new world, not continent
Colonized but the new world Wollstonecraft conceived,
The invisible new world founded not on soil

But on ideas, Mama, the one incanted
So silently as they worked you without wages,
And stashed, under the floorboards you scrubbed, we ticked on
Though only you could hear us when you paused to wipe
Your sweaty brow and rub your aching elbows, we
Ticked louder, louder, and finally, so loudly
Even the men of the house paused to check wall clocks,

Scratched heads, then kept moving forward toward manifest
Destiny -- or so they thought.  We grew quickened in
Your patient hours, Mama, and finally, so
Exultantly, planted as we were in firm ground
You tilled all season, we sprung forth war crocuses
Cracking ice fields where they ditched you, and we, your one
Revenge, we became the nightmare destroyer horde

They had long feared, not of themselves but of their lies,
And Mama, we your proud vengeance, yet embattled
Have demanded much and won, have forsaken much
And won, have reprimanded much and won, Mama,
And we thank you for the journey you hazarded
To detonate us here that we might emerge in
The armor you imagined we would need to fight.



…His hat by Mossant, a bowler, bowed
To me, and mashed his moustache
Grinning.  I knew what he wanted.
They all wanted the same.  He sat
Akimbo, and then the orchestra
Took up the tango, and he stretched
His hand toward me as if its fingers
Themselves, backsides tangled in black
Hair, were the admission.  What could I
Do?    I grabbed those sausages, let him
Hoist me up, whirl me like a heavy
Drapery he was attempting to hang on
An unseen curtain rod, with those
Sausages, smelling more and more
Like burning grease, inching their way
Into the small of my back, cinching
The sequins of my skirt under his fist
So that above my stocking tops,
Under the mirrored ball, he could
Feel the cool angling of the strap
That held them up, could feel the
Heated patch beneath my tap pants,
But then the music stopped.  I
Backed away, and he handed me
His ticket.  They all wanted the same.
They all wanted the thing that makes my…



 “He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” – Psalm 22: 8

This was the note they found in the box with the escape artist’s remains:

“Dear fans,

I know this looks grim.  In fact, what could look worse?
I have scribbled this note using my own blood and the tip of my
Shoelace.  I only have a few minutes of oxygen left, so let me
Explain my plan:  You probably thought this stunt would end
With me escaping from the box as I did that time when the
Sponsors of this event tried to throw me off a cliff in Nazareth. 

This is not in fact the stunt I have called you here to witness. 
This one will take me longer than the three hours set aside by
The sponsors today, but this will be the ultimate escape of all time. 
No one has ever done it before – an escape not from a hellish
Peril but from Hell itself.  What’s more, I will not only escape
From that prison – I’ll wriggle out with all the people stuck there
Who are willing to come with me through the same escape hatch. 
I will leave the hatch open for all future users who remain part
Of my fan club’s lifetime membership database.  This will be great!

Thanks for watching.  Keep looking for updates posted on

Your pal,”

The management regrets this unfortunate incident.  Clearly,
He went mad right before the end.  Refunds may be obtained
At the box office, or patrons may use their ticket stubs for
Future events, subject to availability.



All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,” -- Psalm 22:7

Look over
There – no!  Not
Yet, don’t be
About it.
Okay, now,
Over there.
That bum with
The messed-up
Beard.  Didn’t
He used to
Be someone
On TV?
Stop staring!
He used to
Rescue His
What happened?
Talk about
Of fortune!
Hah!  Wow!  Makes
You think, huh?


Anne Babson says:

Here are my poetry world stats:  The opera for which I wrote the libretto, entitled Lotus Lives, opened in New York this Spring and is now touring as part of the repertory of Meridian Arts Ensemble.  I won the Columbia Journal Prize and the Artisan Journal contest, and I was nominated for both 2001 and 2005 Pushcarts for work appearing in The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal and Ilya’s Honey.  My work has recently appeared in Iowa Review, Cider Press Review, Southampton Review, Bridges, Barrow Street, Connecticut Review, The Pikeville Review, Rio Grande Review, English Journal, New Song, The Penwood Review, Sow’s Ear, The Madison Review, Atlanta Review, which gave me an International Merit Award, Grasslands Review, WSQ, Global City Review, Comstock Review, California Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, The Red Rock Review, and many other publications.  In Europe, my work has appeared in Current Accounts, Iota, Poetry Salzburg, Nth Position and in Ireland, I was in an issue of Crannóg last year.  In Asia, I was just published in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.
My work is featured on an urban gospel hip-hop CD produced by Da Ovahflow (Orville Lewinson) entitled The Cornerstone.I have five chapbooks – Poems Under Surveillance (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press), Commute Poems (forthcoming from Gravity Presses), Counterterrorist Poems (2002 Pudding House Press), Dictation (2001, Partisan Press) and Uppity Poems (1999 Alpha Beat Press).  I was included in an anthology of the best contemporary American poets, Seeds of Fire: Poetry from the Other US (2008, Smokestack Books).  Another British Anthology entitled Emergency Verse (2011, Caparison Books) includes me as well.
My poetry has been featured on both regional and national radio programs.  I have read at The Teachers and Writers Collaborative, Middlebury College in Vermont, Pace University in New York and The Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.  I sit on the Literary Committee of the National Arts Club.  I have done residencies at Yaddo and Vermont Studio Center.
Thank you for reading my poetry and for giving it a chance to move you. 

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