ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

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


Two Poems by Oliver Rice




Perhaps it was their inwardness, above all,
their attention to the dynamics of their selves —

Adele’s normally in the ninety third percentile
on the hierarchies of their rooms,
Victor’s in the eighty seventh —

that tilted their decision not to have children,
after waiting for twelve years.

Which also explains, no doubt,
why, although their home is their certain locus,
the decor ranks in the low forties.
Why always a muting of the public clamor
has a status so much higher than the weather
or the turns of business,
a potted white begonia
or the idea of Africa.
Why they rate certain books above bookishness.

Even as they learn from each other how to be alert
to the fallacy of misplaced significance.


And how to maintain an empathy
with their viscera,
the rhythms of their memories,
the recurrences of their pleasures,
their irritations and why.


Psychiatry, which they regard strictly as an art,
falls nearly off the bottom of Victor’s hierarchy,
but above faith healing on Adele’s,
at the twenty fourth percentile.
She has written a compact little essay
in which their posture is likened to a window
through which they look in at themselves.


On a random Tuesday, Sunday, however,
that loyal presence is unaccountable,
is a wisdom too hard.
Anxieties intrude upon one or the other.
Disquietudes left by their dreams.
An uncertain metabolism.

Amorphous rumors rise from their underminds.
Their hierarchies grow volatile,
persuadable as a barometer.
Obscurities stir in the night.
Credulities are provoked to leap
from the eighteenth percentile to the fortieth,
placidities from the sixty ninth to the eleventh,

counterlives looming far back in their brains.


Surely the errors of subjectivity, they say,
will be discovered by subjectivity.


Albeit, they say,
nothing, nothing is stranger than themselves.



just a separator




The others wanted to go into Annapolis
for a lookaround, collectibles, whatever.
Sure, I said. Whatever.

But already I have lost interest,
seen an old inn with rockers on a veranda,
requested them to come there when they finish.

Excellent, meditative, I think,
gazing at the passing scene,
at the state house spire,
its two flags ruffling against a patch of sky,
recalling the guru who wrote
there are things you see only by long staring.
Wisdom, wrote the guru, has a will.
Excellent, I say. Let it choose. Whatever. 


This  one strolling by now, I reflect,
may be in the financial markets.
That one may be driven by gypsy necessity.
With or without a social conscience.
The woman in a dowdy outfit
may have taken a journey of the soul
without the mind,
or of the mind without the soul.
Possibly several discard their moments as they go.

After all that, to find themselves here.
Bearing their soliloquies.
Disguised as ordinary persons.


Jung said liars and intellectuals
are hardest to heal.     


We are all writing God’s poem,
Anne Sexton said to Erica Jong.
Not I.
The story that emerges
from the story that looks me in the eyes
is what I am after.

But the streets speak in ambiguities.
Dark fables glint in the windows,
luring the undermind.
The doorways gaze like mindless cameras.  


Sontag said she was checking
on what was left in the world.

The human might long ago have expired.
Or by now become confoundingly diverse.
We deal with our fragment of anthropology.
Rumors of reality.
Of continuities. Feasibilities.
Styles of courage, of significance.


We were right, the others, returning, exclaim,
this is an interesting place,
let’s eat, yes, let’s eat,
what have you been up to?

I have been conversing with my guru.

Ha. And what did he have to say?

Excellent, he intoned, continue in like manner.

That old fraud.



Oliver Rice’s poems appear widely in journals and anthologies in the United States and abroad. Creekwalker released an interview with him in January, 2010. His book of poema, On Consenting to Be a Man, is published by Cyberwit and is available on Amazon. His online chapbook, Afterthoughts Siestas, and his recording of his Institute for Higher Study appeared in Mudlark in December, 2010.

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