ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Joyce S. Brown



I count eighty Canadian geese
on the snowy golf course
near my home. They are not Yeats’
wild swans, but have a noisy
beauty all their own as they
amble somewhat nervously.

So little time left to learn!
Lucky those experts who know
from years of study at close hand,
the names of feathers and bird bones,
what birds eat when it snows,
which goose leads the vee and why.

Now here comes the keeper
of the greens, with his dog Cosmo
to shoo the geese away. They go
percussively, leaving the snow
dotted with droppings that look
like ashes from a golfer’s cigar.



Lost and Found

The day my poems were lost
to cyberspace, I also lost my coat,
my keys, a sheaf of photographs.
The computer never gave
me back my work; the coat lay
where I never put it.
The pictures? Well, who knows;
we’re made for separation.

Some worm bores through brain.
My aging neighbor stacks
her shoes inside her stove, her bills
in bureau drawers. She asks when
she is going home, although
she’s lived here forty years.

I will lose my house, my hair,
my teeth, my rhymes. The artist’s
studio will burn. I must believe
that we, like Job, will get our children
and our camels back one day, not here,
but in a sacred place where darkness
is a simple sidewalk crack to leap across
to light, where every inch is home, no
moths, no rust, and poetry is all we know.



The Wrath of a Puzzler

New to crosswords puzzles,
I’m a sucker for the snares:
Saturn and Mercury? Surely
planets—but no, cars. 
Loafers are not lazy ones,
but shoes. Spring sounds:
not a twitter but a “boing,”
Paul and John: not Beetles,
saints. Polo: shirt not game;

I’m garnering a lexicon
of words “oft” used, like fame,
nomad, ire, obi, ice ,Edam
eon, ore, agree  and lam.
Tot’s toes are piggies, a stolen meal
is salmon poached, composer’s fee:
Lisztprice. The solver’s need, a pencil.
Hear me, Puzzlemaker:
truth be told, it’s Google.




I hope God is not like me,
preferring some things
over others. Only one
vase out of my dozen
in the cupboard would I cry
to see broken. I favor
the Japanese maple leaves –
small red stars now—
over the pin oaks’ brown.
This mirror in the front hall
with its dull gold frame—
the wooden chair under it
with its graceful lines—
these are my particulars.

I don’t dare speak of people.

What would I save if the house
caught fire? Ah-- what besides
a life is worth the effort, and
if God is not like me, will he
eventually save them all?


Joyce S. Brown is a poet who lives in Baltimore. Her poems have appeared in POETRY, YANKEE, SMARTISH PACE, THE TENNESSEE QUARTERLY, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, PASSAGER, THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR, THE JOURNAL OF MEDICAL HUMANITIES, COMMONWEAL, OFF COURSE, THE MARYLAND POETRY REVIEW, POTOMAC REVIEW, and other journals.  For 10 years she was a teacher of fiction and poetry writing in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars.
See her poems in Offcourse #50

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