ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


Poems by J.R. Solonche



Okay, stand on what ledge?
On what hilltop?
On what foothold
on the edge

of leverage?
Where is
the chair
closer to the stage?

And where
is the music
anyway if
not everywhere?

The universe
has no orchestra,
no choir,
no soloist,

only the ping
of particles,
the cosmic chatter,
back ground noise of Nothing.

Are these the harps?
Are these the wings
of angels? Are these
the flats and sharps

of the Music Spherical?
Here, only here,
is the trapdoor stage.
Friend, let’s dance on it well.





Tonight you should write
that this morning
you looked in the mirror
and thought
you saw yourself
but didn't.


Tonight you should write
that today
was an experiment that failed.
The sky was gray and sour.
A fine shower of almost-rain
fell like slow sediment
to the bottom
of your expectation.


Tonight you should write
that this afternoon
a solitary crow,
bewitching an oak
the color of bricks,
left the highest stick
with the sound
of cracking in its throat.


Tonight you should write
that at dusk
the sun,
bleeding from its knees,
crawled like a pilgrim
down the cobblestones of clouds
toward dark.


Tonight you should write
that tonight
your life
is cracked in many places
but does not bleed,
that tomorrow
the mirror will be clear
and you will be there.




I open my wallet, which contains who I am.
My wallet contains my identity as my skin contains me.
There is one one-dollar bill, more than enough for a phone call.
There is a picture of my wife as an infant.
There is a picture of my wife as a young woman.
There is a picture of my wife.
There are three plastic cards which give me credit for being alive.
There are three library cards, which alas, I use seldom.
There is a health insurance card, which alas, I use often.
There is a stub with which I will redeem a watch that needs a new crystal,
the watch of my wife's father, who is dead and who, therefore, has no wallet.
I carry my wallet in my hip pocket, and I have never lost my wallet,
and it has never been pick-pocketed, although for years I lived in a big city
and traveled the subway, wary of a large population of strangers.




Straight lines. Right angles. Symmetry.
Water has learned geometry,
stone, the split, flat flake of crystal,

tree, shrub, weed, the plane's bisections,
to live on ends, on edges well
enough to hold the same seasons

as any soil shoots roots and seize.
And, descending through epochs, we
learn from gouged, gray walls, tilted hall

of the deep past, gauged by this stone
by stone of indifference until
disgorged, what time's gorged itself on.





If you ask me what it is like
to be alive, then I will tell you
what it is like to be dead.
Being dead is never having
been alive. It is a stone, a cloud,
a mountain, ice. For as long
as you believed me dead, I was
a stone, a cloud, a mountain, ice.
If you ask me if, at the moment
I slipped on the ice, my life
passed before me, then I will tell
you my death passed before me,
white and cold. If you ask me
if it is a miracle, then I will tell you
I do not believe in miracles, but
you may if you need one for your
reasons. If you ask me nothing more,
then I will tell you what to remember:
He fell from the tallest mountain in the world.



J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. Author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions) and coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books), he lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, the poet Joan I. Siegel, and nine cats, at least three of whom are poets.

His work in Offcourse:




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