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 Simon Perchik



These fences, half done, half
still counting the afternoons
that return alone and those

with no way out —the dead
must like it here, come by
bring the family, lawns, let you

get to know the neighbors
birthdays, what they remember
—this colony has built its city

on staves broken off as sunlight
that looks away though the gate
is open, used to your shadow

spreading out to cool, holding off
step by step where the name goes
when give it back and in shame.



You wait as if every river
begins in ice, then moonlight
seeping slowly through

—you don’t wait! the coffee
is sweeping all Earth
on its side, both poles

flowing into the equator
and what you swallow
is already shoreline

huddled around this table
and your lips in the open
the way small stones are left

to help the dead wander back
as the dim light they make
and any morning now.



You can tell by the heat
though they long ago gave up
the search for water and air

and with every death another
comes to this dry riverbed
already hillside, warmed

by some invisible spore
deep inside and your hands
around it, closed

the way each footpath slows
still gathering the others
who take too long in the curve

—all these rocks! and the dirt
peels off till what you hear
is everywhere the sun

not yet born and in your arms
bit by bit broken apart
with care and mornings.



You can still make out the stars
though it’s noon and the beach
changes —you can tell by the feel

and listening for engine scrap
breaking apart, smelling from smoke
expects you to stand up barefoot

keep struggling with shoreline
—you’re not new to this
will start the grill weeks ahead

as if stars are never sure
are milling around, forgot all about
the darkness you’re breathing in

and no way now to pick and choose
the fires however small or close
to some ocean or daylight

till it creaks and your mouth
no longer lit for kisses
and songs about nothing.



The dead are already holding hands
and what’s left they share
as memories —in the meantime

who do you suppose makes this tea
and the smoked fish, then room
for the grandchildren you almost forgot

were born later —the dead
are no better at it than you
—they mix up dates and places

though what pins them down
is no longer the flowers
soothed by each other and vague streams

—no, it wasn’t you lifting this cup
passing itself off as empty
with nothing inside to unwrap

—from the start the dead form a circle
as if they still expect to sing outloud
and you would hear it, open your mouth.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” and a complete bibliography, please visit his website at

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