ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

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


"At the Tavern, Tramping the Hills" and Other Poems by Oliver Rice.



Not a Thoreau, quite. A less declarative person.
A native, naturally acquainted with Henry,
as well as Emerson, Alcott, and Hawthorne,
respectful of their disquisitions
but holding himself pleasantly apart,
with occasional secretive implications.

Quit the university after a year and a half
when he arrived at his own version
of the Ur-question in philosophy
and his wholesomely satisfying answer
that the eons are utterly about
randomly energized atoms making contact,
adhering in clusters or not,
and if so, interacting according to
their properties and their environments
into an infinitely compounding array
of everything that is or has been
or anything that could possibly be.

Most normal humans, he considers,
must experience moments of awe,
an ambiguous sense of inclusion,
if inconsequentially, in this universe.
Truant from his carpentry trade,
afloat on a pond, tramping the hills,
he ruminates upon his attachments
to Earth by more than gravity —
by a huckleberry patch,
the moaning of a storm,
arrowheads, Emerson's barn,
drifted snow, fried fish,

often indulging in a fantasy
that entities in the environment
which exhibit processes of lifeness,
a meadow, the atmosphere, a river,
may have episodes of tranquility
during which they experience
a feeling vaguely like community,

into which he projects himself

and which he strives to sustain
up and down his ladders,
in wary privacy at the tavern.




The stacks. The stacks. Awesome. Awesome.
Revelational. Disorientational.
Utopias. Theories of everything.
Huge voices of the long conversation —
Thales, Lucretius, Darwin. 

Although the power of the said
may be in the unsaid.

Metaphysics may be too small
for the totality of phenomena.
The risen ape may have betrayed himself
by overreaching his flawed rationality,
diminished by lawless myths,
by astronomy and psychiatry.
By the despair of pure possibility.
By concepts that bear life a grudge.

The reflective context may be amorphous.
The facts may never be all in for sure.
The power of the explicit
may be, then, in the implicit.

The recourse, thus, for a secular person
with a religious temperament
may be to keep up on his culture,
seek attainment and self-realization,
steadily cultivate his power of intuition,
and take pride that he is undeceived
about the human condition.




Standing in zealous awe of The Enlightenment

relocated to the Boulevard Henry IV,
standing before the Place de la Bastille,
the historic site, but devoid of remains,
standing in the footprints of Voltaire,
Montesquieu, Bayle, Diderot,
empathizing with the philosophes
whose works King and Pope condemned
to flames in defense of their despotisms,

a figurative smoke rising still,
emblematic of assaults on church or state,
phrases — laissez-faire, atheist epiphany —
occurring like fragments of memory
on the metro to Porte Dauphine,
broken by torture, secret memoir —
while waiting for Dori at the Musee Rodin,
cosmic malice, truth will out —
people watching on place Furstenberg,
browsing in the Louvre des Antiquaires.

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 poems, On Consenting
to Be a Man, is published by Cyberwit and is available on Amazon. His online chapbook, Afterthought
Siestas, and his recording of his Institute for Higher Study appeared in Mudlark in December, 2010.

Return to Offcourse Index.