ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

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


"How Bones are a Better Bet" and other poems by Mercedes Lawry.


How Bones are a Better Bet

I prefer the architecture of bones.
I do not love the flesh, the meat
and muscle, the dot dot dot of bruises,
this sac and its endless folds.
Take it away and leave me with the clack,
such shapes unyielding.

How greenery would twine and wind,
find purchase in the climb among ribs.
How weather would sift through me,
plum clouds, cataracts of rain, ribboned wind.

No need to stretch the truth for where
does it hide, my self, my raggedy self
that fears the blue gush and lung suck.
Never a comfort of skin,
I would be but a bone dancer,
singular, separate. Nothing now hidden,
no speck, no creeping life form intent
on sweet decay, just skeletal essence.





Green for sale, no,
green as the sell,
sold and then emptiness.

What do the stems carry?
How many leaves? Soon enough
they are brown and dead.

Buy something living,
keep it so. Paint it green
or breathe green into its lungs.

If the tree is willing,
if the saw is ready and the hand
holding it, wavering.

The green, gone,
here and away, up high
and down near our feet, soft.

Take this green and give me
an object. Needed
falsely but what pretend.

Green dimming to sea,
to what is held and passed,
to purchase, buffeted, spent.


Contemplating Terrorism From Afar

Why aren’t the screams audible?
How is it there is such a remove,
our cognizance and sympathies?
Little bits of the world break off
hurtling into space. Resignation,
a crusty gray blanket pulled over our heads
keeps out more than light, keeps out
the imponderable.  Returning
to dust, is there joy in that journey?
How many details can we concoct?
Like it or not, the blue breaths
of the dying will shed their wings.
Progress is nine-tenths of the law.
For some, there is the luck of the draw.
Others stumble, night after night,
season of fever, season of ice.



Stories of Rescue

Gust and gather,
the barren trees scrabble
like aunts in a frenzy.
Such is the dark season
wound around bones.
No blue sky sneaks out
as we keep our heads down,
our fingers tapping, telling
ourselves stories of wide, green fields.



On waking to a great unhappiness

I wake into stalled confusion, only
the fogged light a clue. If the vast plain of night
cracks apart too soon, dread will brim and surround.
Too many hours still to be navigated
without sleep’s balm, curl of oblivion.
In the morning gauze, before the world
is stirring, no need yet to accept
the slump from bed, the chill, time’s vacuum.
No sure prescription, the long and short of it.
The raggedness lies next to you, sometimes
touching your skin, sometimes
a small, safe distance away.


Mercedes Lawry has been publishing poetry for over thirty-five years in such journals as Poetry, Natural Bridge, Nimrod, and Saint Ann’s Review.  She has published two chapbooks - “There are Crows in My Blood” and “Happy Darkness” and received honors from the Seattle Arts Commission, Jack Straw Foundation, Artist Trust and Richard Hugo House, been a Pushcart nominee twice and held a residency at Hedgebrook.  She has also published short fiction as well as stories and poems for children. 

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