ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


Poems by Francis Blessington


My Father at the Races

His Bible was a sheaf of old quartos:
Ricki’s Holiday, We Miss Colin, Vinceremus,
Wildcat Clyde. The jockeys, too:
“The key to at least Place.”
These are histories of guess, patterns of waste,
faint predictions of hits. The final revelations
arrive on time in the last edition
at the cigar store, folio news
for the other expectant fathers, too,
for the longshot bookie bets and hope
of the armed escort to the vault.
But now back to the racing sheets,
his television that raises him
from many depressions, squinting
through the store-bought glasses
plus magnifier, discovering New Lands,
where a chariot comes true and posthaste.




Re-Visiting the Islands of the Blest

(to my daughter)
And some dwell in the islands of the blest, their souls
free from care beside the deep-whirling Ocean.

At times the way is open:
The sand bar dries at low tide
to that runway stage I see from the air
as the plane draws me to Europe or beyond.

Today we walk that glitter
though winds encroach the sea water
and a gully may cut off our return
and wet our cold feet with a little hell.

We reach what is officially restricted
but winter and no visible law allow
us to visit the seasonal kids’ camp
you are almost young enough to attend.

The wind torments you but you prevail.
Even duck hunters are gone months ago
and we admire the roughness of herring gulls,
two buffleheads, and a collie lurching free.

Squanto led Miles Standish here for a moment
to admire the harbor. A place of rare connection
where maturity is unmasked and the sloping causeway
leads to a windless shore where we remember

your reluctant immersion in the sea, how
fear kept your head up like a frog and sinking,
till I eased your face down in the water
where you breathed air out, moving forward,

a spirit of the sea, initiate in a cult of our own.




“The Sun is God”

last words of J.M.W. Turner

Sometimes a calm fish mart
on an unsheltered beach
opposite the revolutionary shore
or the arched tondo
of shadowed moonlight,
the mere echo of sun,
open like an eyelid in the water
to blink away the net men,
or the full flare of Trafalgar,
a sailor bobbing dead and wide-eyed
beneath the massive fort
of ship, sails, clouds.

Or a fire god warning the finish of day and sea,
exploding gases in rain and snow
that almost extinguish us
but for the spirit of a brig
or a gull glowing faintly,
holding back complete turbulence,
like the soul of a beloved,
like a code flag from God.




What the Singer Left Behind

(Bill Monroe, creator of bluegrass music)

A Memorial Highway for his name,
for the ridge runner of authentic moonshine,
his bus route, bypassing splintering shanties,
even that artful mocking bird of many medleys.

The Museum, his glassed-in mandolins,
the bluegrass saints beheaded
and suspended as gem-tone satins,
that displaced foul overalls,
the once hillbilly-parlor musicians.

His Campground, still consecrated
with Heartland string jamborees,
gospels in the prompting pines,
campfire eulogies to the tuneful proud god.

The Shop where his records are remaindered,
those you owned, dedicated legatee,
who died youngest of us: her banjo
in the gabled attic, my guitar mostly silent,
and your mandolin, sold off,
crosspicked on another stage run.


Blessington tells us: "I have published two books of poetry, Wolf Howl and Lantskip. My verse translation of Euripides’ Trojan Women won the Der-Hovanessian Prize for the best translation in 2011. My translations have been performed at the University of Chicago, Athens State University, and professionally in Boston. I have published verse translations of Euripides’ The Bacchae and Aristophanes’ The Frogs, a verse play, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Paradise Lost: Ideal and Tragic Epic, Paradise Lost and the Classical Epic, as well as many essays and stories and a novel, The Last Witch of Dogtown.
My poems have appeared in Appalachia, Arion, Cumberland Poetry Review, The Dalhousie Review, Denver Quarterly,The Florida Review, Frank, Harvard Magazine, International Poetry Review, Light, Literary Imagination, New Letters, Offcourse, The Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Southern Review, Yankee, and many other journals."

Blessington's work can be seen in Offcourse # 55 and #57.

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