ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Joan Glass.


Legato (For Stephanie)

For so long, when you held your violin
you were a soldier holding a rifle
on the underside, steadying it.
Then with your other hand,
fingers stiff and arm arched
in vigilance, you were determined
to create your own resistance.

We discuss this over coffee,
along with our stories of love.
After years like this you must decide:
will you stay if it means giving in?
Can you meet the music on its terms?

Now it is hard to tell
where your arms stop
and the instrument begins.
It's like this too when
in your lover's arms you throw
your head back in laughter
and he catches you.
Successive tones, unbroken,
in the impetuous gravity.





In the Valley

Dawn threatens to spill down
these snowy hills that insulate us,
to burst rudely through the window
and discover our valley of blankets.

Soon there will be hot water
running in the bathroom,
picking out the right clothes,
a daily reading about faith.
Then, a whole day
of mending mistakes,
fastening invisible buttons,
pretending that I have the answers.

So when your fingers find
my unpinned hair,  splayed out
wild against your shoulder
I want to whisper:
I am the thread.
Spin me in your hands.
Hurry, before the sun
strikes its infernal match,
before anyone sees
that I am unfinished.





The Burned House

“There is no house, yet here I am.”
From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood

Tonight I will visit our burned house
for the last time.  I will peer into windows
and imagine flowers on the table or a bed
where I pretend you have been waiting for me.

I’ve arrived later than I planned.
The horizon is already a sleepy eye,
watching and growing weary as I grieve.
I know that I cannot stay, that you will not come.
After all, there is no house.

Still, I gather up bits of invisible glass
and stuff  my pockets full of cinder,
loving you, loving you still.

I understand now why after a fire or flood
people return to their homes and search
for days in a trance through the rubble,
when there is nothing left to recover.





At the Deli

Hunks of oily roast beef
and bowls of potato salad
are lifted and served,
then replaced in their cases
by arms sheathed in latex.

A woman next to me has
forgotten to ask for shaved ham,
and the deli worker has already
sliced and bagged her order.
I’ll just take it sliced,
she insists, waving her hand,
smiling too graciously.

What is it that she hopes to
make up for with this small act?
Later when she nibbles on
her sliced ham sandwich
at a picnic, or spreads it
with mustard for her ungrateful
husband, will she add this
sacrifice quietly to her running list,
preparing for the day
when it will be enough?





The Semi-Colon

You are the most romantic
of all the punctuation marks.

The period is an unimaginative
drone and the exclamation point
unnecessary if the language
has done its good work.

Parenthesis is a copout,
a way to whisper the brave
love that we should

At the notion that there
must be a clear beginning
or end, you wink knowingly,
make us pause and reconsider.

You are the footbridge
where we meet to embrace
and to forgo clarity,
where we reach for one another
over the spaces between us.






You know that old sweater
you just can’t part with?
The one that made you feel  
like the most beautiful girl
in the room, that fit like a dream,
but now you can hardly breathe in it?

You try to replace it,
buy one that looks similar.
But no other feels as soft
against your skin or makes
your eyes shine like fresh ink.
And because no other compares
you cannot bring yourself to move on.

There should be a place
in the closet for one’s first love,
next to that old sweater.
We could label the shelf:
“things that don’t fit
that we never outgrow.”


Joan Prusky Glass is a graduate of Smith College (B.A. History/Women’s Studies, M.A.T. Secondary Education).  Half Korean and half Irish/Polish, she has spent her life in Detroit, South Korea, and New England.  Joan is a recovering Baptist, disillusioned feminist, former school district administrator, and mother of three young children.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bone Parade, Haggard and Halloo, Parable Press, Smith College Alumnae Quarterly, The Rampallian, The Blue Hour, Up the River, Milk Sugar, Gloom Cupboard and Visceral Uterus among others.  She lives in Connecticut with her family.

Return to Offcourse Index.