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 Susan Sonde.



Again I try crayoning my autobiography
but the brass finial on the lamp to my left
pleads for attention.
Words like lariats snake over the top
of themselves then stave in: my first line
is almost always my last.

How long since I decamped to the observatory ­
with miner’s light affixed to my cap and
looked through the oily darkness, the lightless
vault of the telescope at the gauzy nebulae
of the infinite past?

I island in the yellow light that sockets
my cold room, muscle out of my gapped shoes,
my skirt like a width of awning, and place the rest
with my rat’s nest of dirty laundry, glad when
the radiator kicks on and heat licks my body.
The story of my life is thick with beginnings
accumulated day to day and of the space between
where there is no breathing, only vacancy
to get through.

I write to make tolerable my alone,
to make dominion out of something irretrievable.

The russet shore bleeds into the silver-black river
and the faltering dock returns to its icy state.
My feet dangle between the broken rungs
of its balsa ladder, giving panic my groaning
to work on, acreage to colonize.




Sweet sweetness, my love for hours
you’ve  grown impending in me.
Don’t horseshoe me out of your life.

I am not the aviary of afflictions you suppose,
or the narrow, telescoped view
which is the way with others.

Allow for plasticity and self-invention,
the roseate of me, the elliptical shimmer.

Among the milkweed pods beneath the gum woods,
your lean-to stands vacant.
Was I flagrant with your feelings, your teardrop imprints,
bacchanal for amusing myself elsewhere?

The loneliness in which I dwell, I will hazard the trace
from my abject terrain. Although the blade of my oar
strikes bottom. I will trickle back from the dreamscape,
my aerial map, the bearer of polite smiles
and speak flame to you, dwell among your words
in the crenelated reds, the iridescent glare of morning.

Knees to bow in whipsawed canoe I am but a thumb print
away from your hammock, your island of mute resolve.

Crows pencil the air over palsied shore and wind,
with its long-handled paddles, it’s plosives,
poles clouds the color of unalloyed lead over a final
narrow filament of sun.

I, parvenu, religion that worships you, struggle to circuit
in quotient of calm; blind hound leashed, down on all fours,
a rabid guest in your sentient, stringent land, its arches
empty beneath greyed-in sky, a queasy light
making everything appear stranded and immobile.

Yes I feel kindled as I cross your threshold and promulgate
in epistolary form my love for the you I have dreamt
enlaces my mindless flesh, ratifies my emotions. I believe
in the now of us. But you don’t
manifest before the camera, my refracted lens.
Do you regret the invitation you sent me, fear my love hemorrhagic,
too great in its pining, its plangent banter like the rasping of crickets
embedded in night?

Time speeds through my flesh. I grow obsolete. Soon the fine net
of my reindeer veins will collapse and I will become promiscuous
death’s apprentice, eponymous, mythologized as if I’d never been.

Can you make do with this, are you equipped, robust enough?
What I mean is, more than some, I am prosthetic for you, a clinical error.
What I mean is, I lie on the damp sheets you have provided: a postmortem.
What I mean is, I’ve been meaning to tell you that the girders of despair
are out of synch with my echolalia. I fear too much
the lintel and frieze for what it portrays is so nearly like my own.
Am I not the loser in this merger, this entropy so reptilian?




The air heavy as laminate heaves out
of sun’s torpid light, leaves the city:
its roads strips of timber in underwater dark.

Everything reliable, everything durable slips away:
once winsome citizens, the orphans’ cottage, skyscraper
and harried broom; the swept porch and limousine,
bells that caterwaul from the famed steeple gone AWOL.

Days level monumental dunes, impromptu breezes launch
ships dark beneath the celestial ceiling of embossed light,
the heavy-lidded whites of a hurricane pending.

The phone rings and rings. I hover over the receiver
and ratify my existence with relentless hellos.

Gone wood, gone frame, gone luminosity from my self-portrait.
Gone stream winnowed from its path to live as vapor:
strong are the ropes of haze that forage in air.

Islanded tongue in the unvented warehouse, what are
the songs you used to sing?

Nothing consummates or delights.

The rooms speak smoke.
In the fields out back the cotton
competes with hemispheric ash.
Rations coach hunger.
I grapple with the marrow of self.

On the pages of the Atlas the continents lie side by side—
hologram my mute twin,

I have need of you.


Susan Sonde has published several books: Inland Is Parenthetical(Dryad Press), In the Longboats With Others(New Rivers Press), winner of The Capricorn Book Award, Drumming On Water(Finishing Line Press) forthcoming August 30, 2014.

She has published in The Southern Humanities Review, Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, Epoch, Narrative (Finalist in the 2014 Narrative Poetry Prize), The Ohio Review, The Mississippi Review, The Chatahoochie Review, and many others.

Among the grants and awards she has received are The Maryland State Arts Council grants for fiction and poetry, The Gordon Barber Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Finalist in The Beulah Rose Poetry Contest, Finalist in The 2014 Narrative Poetry Award. She was a finalist in The National Poetry Series, Pushcart Nominee, PEN fiction Awards.

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