ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by David Wanczyk


30 Dollars Poorer and
Once-Bitten in San Diego.

Uninspired Girl seeks anything
to help avoid insincerity
while others try living
lines from Salinger,
oozing + plieing, eyes fixed
on curses covering walls,
twirling forks with their pinkies up.
UG enjoys reading, irony,
short walks in Beechwood forests,
massages + archaisms—
Ay, they’re the rub.
UG = SWF, NS, seeks
W/ p’s and q’s,
preferably, but
U should be inspiring,
fun for all ages,
a board game
lover: Trivial Pursuit.
Kitschy t-shirts wearers
and collar poppers
need not apply.
900 more words to my picture.
Can you tease them out
without adding to the cost?



After Reading Rilke on My Porch

I notice an old car with its license plate
in the back window like a 'help me'
sign. Now'd be a good time for some tea,
I muse. It's two degrees chillier than balmy
and fine for a sweater beverage.

On the way into the kitchen, I stub
my damn big toe and damn it hurts.
I'm emotionally in-grown. I try not
to curse and then I do the in-breathe
cringe-thing. The one where my cheekbones
puff out. My damn, damn, damn toe
and this ethereal, mystical, cryptic ottoman,
like an angel or something, its woodwork
magical as a paper cut; everyone gets
this stuff and I just stub, stub
like a damn, a damn tealess, ignorant damn.



Ants on a Log

“In 1961, Birmingham reported a phototoxic dermatitis, Pink Rot, which had been shown to be endemic among white harvesters of celery. It was believed that exposure to celery oil and sunlight was responsible for the dermatitis.”

“What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength, search not.”  Sirach 3:20


Life, maybe: the sweet-piquant shrivel
of raisin-symbol, and all of us lodged,
like fire in a hill, deep-deep amidst
the perk-sour limbo trench of cheese
creamed, or peanut butter, if you prefer.

And God—green, unproven God—is
that broad-ribbed celery, core
under cream cheese crust, unmoving
iron center around which we late-grapes
sit chilling as omnivorous, omnivorous

Satan maws on hors d'oeuvre-us, himself
having brought nothing else to the party,
not even a Coors or Diet Dr. Pepper for one.
(The paprika sprinkled stands for something,
too, like our pets that Satan eats, or

our innocence, mild and consumable.
Regardless, we are ants and also put-upon
guests at a party, strangely wooed
by the crasher, his breath savory-fresh,
eyes urgent as a sidewalk come-on).

He arranges himself at the seat of honor,
no one else here as deserving
of the bean bag chair, its bean and bag
so low-lovely-throne, blue canvas
crunching like splintering bones.

Later, though, stalked by God, his night
will be half-ruined by Pink Rot blotches
on his hands and mouth, windigo-indigo
burning, and bright sage strands
of celestial celery caught in his molars

while we, raisins, inhibit growth
of Streptococcus Mutans, bacterial cause
of tooth decay, thereby ev'ning it for bad
ol' Sa', the Oleanic acid of our pride sharp'ning
his bite, exalting his not-quite pearly whites.



A Sadness Repeating and Me Out-of-State

As you decide he’d rather hear the Patriots as he dies
than the Muzac prattle of HGTV, I prepare

with a look at Travelocity, hoping, dear God,
for a cheap flight and better food than we had

at the last one of these a month ago when I sadly ate
a slopping finger sandwich of ham and Miracle

Whip, stern amidst the principal grievers—your two
father-lost cousins fooling with olives. I joined them,

eating twelve in a contest without consolation prize,
digesting as best I could, the upholstered pall surrounding.

Your mind: It hurts: and I think of my family, my uncle,
the decent, hulking one, in by marriage, always quick

with the Lewinsky joke we’d heard four times
already. Until last Christmas, he didn’t know I lived

out-of-state, out of touch as we are. It all hurts,
you say, and I feel that. Because you’re so close

with your family; you call when you get places.
Out of habit, out of consideration. And fear,

recently, these things tending to happen in threes.
I think of your father, your mother, their brothers—

one gone, one morphined—and my own, as close
to me as Billy or George, close as a one-way flight.

Everything reminds me of him. Everywhere I look,
you say, and with phone between shoulder and chin,

I’m sorry. Sorry you’re lovely. Don’t know
what I feel, but the Patriots won on a safety,

which must be somehow fitting, and I have a decent
fare from Orbitz. (You laugh). Decent, but not great.




At an Applebee's in Greenfield, Mass

Two days before Christmas and my parents want drinks,
“fun drinks,” so we get some Kahlua Kreams
and sit by the takeout door.

The waitstaff commiserate in earshot—
double shift, uncooked riblets, eight percent, unpaid
bills, New Yorkers, that hick, and two-elled Allison,
the hostess—gorgeous a little—doing nothing
but the vestibule lean.

Maybe since I eat here I'm not real either.

But I like them some, Cassie from my first grade,
married now and tending bar.
Katie, the somehow blond-eyed,
who'll quit soon in a flourish
of battered onion. Min the Pip, who loves
my waitress sister and tips us off
that the Grande's only a bigger cup.
They're alright.

I'm not, since not-glancing Allison
gives me a hunger funky fajita wrap can't fill:
her black-red workshirt stale
and tight
and reckless.

“I feel real feelings,” my line to her would run,
“in a place so substantially fake.
Let's get outta here.”
And so she'd listlessly come.

It's been a bit-tongue-
while-snagging-a-car-nap kind of a day.
Yuletide fights with grandma,
“Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time,”
and now this spiked coffee drink,
lower, upper, anxiety cocktail,
then Allison.

There's a nauseous feeling in my genitals.
It's the same tickle-tremor I had earlier
when grandma dropped the M-bomb, Marriage,
since what else is there to talk about?

My drink's lukewarm, and it's not the only thing.

“How did you know when to propose?”
I ask my dad. We don't usually talk
like this, but it feels, just then,
like there's not much left to lose.

“Mom was wearing a new bra,” he says, satisfied
with the arm slap he gets from her.

And it's at an Applebee's, this Applebee's, with dad,
that I will have begun my eulogy,
loving quickly before noticing
that Allison's gone like someone I'll miss.

David Wanczyk's work has appeared in JMWW, killauthor, The Legendary, Miracle Monocle, The New York Quarterly ...

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