ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

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


Three Poems by Michelle Askin

As If Aware…

Red birthmarks on the forest trees.
I made it happen like a sharp tool.
White water writhing until my blood 
was someone else's California tide pool.
Whoever I want to become it cannot be the same,
and the suicidal hotline is crowded tonight.
But I just want to be told I am loved
the way a man once said it, who gave me stories
of living in a Norwegian clapboard. How every 2am
he was so cold, he would drive snowy trails
with the heater and euro pop bands blasting
until he could feel nothing but his own  sweaty,
wet loneliness and hangover after a long blur
at the oil rigs. That during this sad mundaneness,
he praised God for being 29, knowing he was
in the prime of his life—  It’s a thing, you know.
To be old enough to realize you'll never be this young
again and to love the fuck out of that without knowing why.
He is not a man I know anymore.  I didn't even mean
to make him part of this story or the rusted leaves
and rushed breeze. Smells of dead fish and smells of fresh
on the boardwalk of seedy motel rain and crush.



Your father's Hashimoto family live in stone rows
with red rock gardens and lemon bird baths.
The sons are now all Japanese lab geniuses.
They are not your blood, your father jokes,
so you can marry. I will be double grandfather.
The daughters wear salt white coats and ride
Ferraris to West Hollywood film stars.
Maybe if you were pretty too... he says.
On Sundays they feed the hungry
lined up on fuck ya graffiti basketball courts.
When you come for oatmeal, a brown wooden
spoon chokes your throat until you spit
all the lithium laced oats. They are the healers;
you are the junkie the sad until spitting out all
that was given to you. All the kind & good
things of your father's lonely, dreamy life.



Visiting The Shut In

Lately I've been finding myself  with anointed oil in hands
and the Pentecostal caravan, telling the caged in institutions,
Don't worry God has plans for you— maybe you are here as a sign of hope.
Lately I'll call my far away sister for no reason or to discuss rare top 40 songs
we used to know: Mariah on the hopscotch court and two boys
from my sixth grade asking why I had no friends then fisting pink chalk in my mouth.
Dream lover come rescue me— they were watching my young
sister burst with autumn, the lip sync star ambition, and a good friend
named Latisha to double-dutch and make up code words for
sexing your favorite 90210 boy with. This isn't all we talk about.
Sometimes she holds up the phone to the sound of waves crashing
or what she's feeding her boyfriend from the Mary and white orchid garden
windy with Los Angeles high tide. And sometimes on the caravan there
are arguments over KFC and McDonalds or which town gutter truck stops.
Never rehashing her bleeding hands to the rusted bar. Her, Oh those fuckers
are back whispering I killed those teenagers in the car—
the ones who were egging cow fields down 81's Dublin, Va  Farms.

Lately I've been thinking most of us find the best ways we can
to be alone and some of us don't. You remember; you remember,
she kept on as we wailed in Lord's got the victory tongues and Amazing Grace.
You remember, she howled again and again until we almost did.


Michelle Askin's poetry has appeared in The Kitchen Poet, Dead Flowers, Exact Change Only, Grasslimb, Artichoke Haircut, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Virginia.

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