ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

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


Five Poems by Ian Ganassi



Once in a while I see the Goodyear blimp and wish
It weren’t an advertisement.

All’s fair in banking and sales
And the vacuum left by sincerity
As it heads off, stage left.

A selection of paddles stenciled Freud, Marx, and Masturbation.
A selection of peace pipes with which to burn you.

“The benevolent herb.”
No more so than any other.

“The smug drug.”

Meanwhile the stogie billowed fragrant in the rain.
“And your point would be?”

Illness always seems like a metaphor
Since there are so many potential meanings—
Only an angel of some kind
Could get sick without it seeming a metaphor.

Thinking absently in no-nonsense prose
Of how you want to punch me in the nose;
Watch out what you wish for,
I punch back.

Meanwhile, sculling along on the Lackawanna,
Various American characters.
“Buddy can you spare a silk handkerchief for my rabbit,
She’s got a cold.”

It would take a feat of magic
To get us out of this bus station alive.

Sex and aggression at the pointless convention,
By their fruits shall you know them.




Menial labor in Seattle,
The Wonder Bread factory
Smelled wonderful from the bus,
And the cute waitress at the canteen.

Suddenly we were all sailors.
I can’t imagine a more deserving town.

The best way around the obstacle
Is the path of least resistance.
It has the logic of a koan
And the rhythm of an algorithm.

In boot camp, however, they teach it as a last resort:
“The path of least resistance is the last resort.”

And who but Mr. Clean would be captain of the Wonder Bread team?
Let’s call it tug-of-war.

While rollerblading down the avenue
In tight shorts, for instance,
She said she liked to be wined and dined,
The point being that I couldn’t afford her,
Despite her alluring smiles.

Her uncle Mr. Green Jeans insisted I work in his garden.
I told him I would rather
Roll around in it naked.
He wasn’t too happy about that,
Wouldn’t help me to any of his homemade granola.

Can’t they just leave me alone
With my cheese sandwiches,
I wanted to know.

Of course the answer was no.

The mahogany bust was meant as a gift,
But I took it as a threat.
The truth, as usual, was that it was both.



This was not a useful jar to put
Things in but can you hear the sirens
Screaming far off on the shores of evening?

A common confusion
About how the kids communicate
Kindness to the wolves,
The cat to the mouse,

Or vice versa,

The figures in the back parlor
Or counting house teaching toughness,
Medium rare, bloodier,
A consensus that the onion
Must be exfoliated.

No balance
Only an illusion of balance,
The lie to oneself
In bedrooms in the fog.

But I like this fog
Said the undertaker,
Exercising his trade in the morbid dark,

Asking “where’s your head” as though
We were still in the Navy.

“You won’t be buried any deeper”
Was the tag line of the discount funeral home.

Nothing is as the saying goes,
Away, disappearing into the near distance,
“Almost somehow” can’t see your hand
Before your face.




Jude the Obscure was a horde of barbarians
And he was at the gates. Run away, run away!

“You shop like a guy,” she said.

The idols are as dumb as scarecrows
In a plot of cucumbers.

Climbing a memory of a hill
In a beat-up VW, you are a magnet.
But the surprise is that I can be a magnet too.
Not that anyone likes it, that’s not the point.

Did you say I was full of crap?
Did I say that?
I am a gold key, I am a monkey.

A fifth above is the “cross harp” key.

They dressed the wound in a tuxedo.
That is, the doctors had just gotten back
From a charity ball,

While the candidates and journalists kept running,
Like diarrhea. He was very nose. Life is very noisy.
And with darling asides.

Darling aside, she had several,
Hiding in the broom closet and under the bed.
Every love nest should come with a broom closet,
For all the people you’ll have over

Now that you’re better appointed.
Now we’re cooking with turpentine.

Will you arrange the canary Mrs. Balderdash?
And refresh the hydrangeas, they look a little peaked.

As time goes by by leaps and bounds and fits and snatches.




“It’s almost like you don’t care.”
Hand me down my magnifying glass of malted milk.

A fortune teller’s treasure chest of prescience couldn’t
Foretell how the thing would come out.

“That’s just the risk we’ll have to take.”
But what’s left of the trees keep budding, unconcerned.

What’s falling out of my pockets now?
There’s only one direction left, so it must be

The correct one. “The Mystery of the Speckled Band.”
It’s not exactly a revelation how domestic they were;

Where would they have been without Mrs. Hudson
(If that was her name)? The pipe glowing in the dimness

Of a stormy afternoon, “The deep and subtle scheming
Which seemed to be weaving an invisible net

Around the young Baronet.” Time seemed to stand still
For a very short time, then it was back to business as usual.

“Relief that goes beyond diarrhea,” or the day
I didn’t know there was to be a full eclipse of the sun.

What an odd apocalyptic color everything turned—
I was mystified. Or the urban rainbow by which most of us

Were amazed, except those of us who weren’t. He was well on his
Way, but ill when he returned. He felt like he lived

In a bus station. Perhaps hell is a bus station with no exit
Sign, but there aren’t many bus stations left anyway.


Ian Ganassi's poetry, prose and translations have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The Drunken Boat, Folly, New England Review, The Warwick Review, New American Writing, Interim and Octopus. Images from an ongoing collage project with painter Laura Bell can be found at

Return to Offcourse Index.