ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

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


Two Poems by Stuart Friebert



large red signs along Washington’s 101 read,
protesting the expansion of a national park.
Even  morons strung out on stuff will regain
consciousness by the third day, beg for food.

Some of us resort to scornful laughter, even
cynical abuse at such lunacy, which is no
match for the zeal of the single-minded, who
propagate like nettles in this land of the free.

I admit to being preoccupied with my own
affairs to do more than curse, too cowardly
even to stop, at least try to deface a sign or
two: hah, as if that’d even make me sadder.

At a lookout’s roadhouse I sample a few local
brews, but can’t even cry in them. If you’re an
experienced doctor, I’m an experienced patient,
someone says somewhere in Dostoevsky, then

drinks a glass to the end of the affair. “Money
puts everything right,” the guy next to me mutters.
We look at each other till we both burp. He’s from
another country, it’s obvious when he speaks up:

“We just cut down every damn tree we need to
sell, end of discussion!” He’d touch you to your
very soul if he just looked at you, sweetly baby-
faced. “Go, child”, I whisper, help him to the door.



Courtesy of Houdini, who said,
“That was a real buster!” when

young Keaton fell down a flight
of stairs. Also a stage-term for

a spectacular pratfall, of which
Brecht was a particular fan who

wrote one into every production
he could, though Peter Lorre said,

Not one in “M” please! Then all
grew dark and he staggered off

to lurk in more shadows till his
blood caught fire. Decline was

no longer out of the question:
witness what they did to him in

Hollywood, where he’d fled…
Brecht’s greatest actor become

a sort of clown to Greenstreet’s
menacing whimsies. Even Buster’s

after-hours companionship couldn’t
save Peter from a short life, whose

melancholy piggy-backed on Buster’s
after too many bottles of wine. “I must

try the world again,” one or the other
would mumble, then give into haunting

memories of troubled early days. No use
now of spoiling our lives thinking of them.


Stuart Friebert published three books in 2014: his 13th book of poems, "Floating Heart" (Pinyon Publishing), his 10th translation volume, "Puppets in the Wind: Selected Poems by Karl Krolow" (Bitter Oleander Press) and "Stomach of the Soul, Selected Poems of Sylva Fischerova" (in cotranslations with the author & A.J. Hauner/Calypso Editions.) Black Mt Press will publish his story collection, "The Language of the Enemy," in 2015; Tiger Bark Press has just published BE QUIET: Selected Poems by Kuno Raeber, in his translations and Iris Press has just published ON THE BOTTOM, his new book of poems.

His work appears several times in Offcourse.

Return to Offcourse Index.