ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


Two Poems by Francis Blessington


The Devil’s Mark

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Exodus 22:18

We all carry it somewhere,
that nevus: a mole, a birth stain,
the natural tattoo,
small teat for a familiar
—blackbirds, even insects--
a lump of hard chalk.

Once, the judges had you stripped,
shaved, and searched for that scar
that hurt when Satan branded you
but turned callused
so no pin pricks you there,
even under the tongue or eyelid.

Perhaps where you were hit
by a stone on the forehead
hides now below the hairline.
But under the torturer’s
microscopic eye all are impaired.



The Hoard

Searching for the looted gold
of the glamorous online reconstruction,
we see in the musty light of the unsealed mound
that the king has vanished from his burial boat
together with the slaughtered servants,
glimpse but horses’ jaws with stalwart teeth,
which early marauders could squander.

Pillage, rapine, splendor founded settlements.
Nothing but saga life: Rolf leaping
upon Swedes, and Danes tossing their golden horns
to dazzle Britons for a kill.
The academy distills the stories.
Videos challenge hand and eye.

Outside, the balleting, slow, white
blades of a windmill slash the Swedish wind
across Denmark. Many pause at the frothy water.
But one girl springs and cuts the demon waves,
explodes invading whitecaps, alarms the resting gulls
and deciphers mysterious runes upon the rocks.


Francis Blessington has published two books of poems. Wolf Howl and Lantskip. His translation of Euripides’ Trojan Women won the Der-Hovanessian Prize for the best translation in 2011. His translations have been performed at the University of Chicago, Athens State University, and professionally in Boston. He has 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. His novel, The Last Witch of Dogtown (Curious Traveller Press) was published in 2001. His forthcoming book is Euripides: Trojan Women, Helen, Hecuba: Three Plays about Women and the Trojan War (verse translations).

His poems have appeared in Appalachia, Arion, Cumberland Poetry Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Dalhousie Review, Denver Quarterly,The Florida Review, Frank, Harvard Magazine, International Poetry Review, Light, Literary Imagination, New Letters, Pegasus, The Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Southern Review, The Vocabula Review, Willow Springs, Yale Literary Magazine, Yankee, and in many other journals as well as in Offcourse #59, Offcourse #57 and Offcourse #55.

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