ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Three Poems by Stuart Friebert



Biggest bacterium, have to dig in the mud
off the Namibian coast to study it; the size
of a period, I read. Gram-negative, they’d

not make a pleasant necklace for anyone
you truly loved, who might ask for more water,
a little more bread, till whispering, “Suddenly,

I cannot eat anymore”… With a volume three
million more times than the average bacteria,
they will get even richer, while she gets poorer;

and you will be left friendless, not to mention
helpless, see nothing but distress before you.
Meanwhile, things are going over cheerfully

for scientists since it was first discovered in ’97,
who sometimes follow paths leading nowhere
in particular, which isn’t the mother of all vices,

while the rest of us think to ourselves, Good Lord,
why in heaven’s name did I go there? Till we roll
on our other side, begin to perspire, straighten

the pillow, not even a pearl of wisdom in sight.
Best to move on to Namibia’s Diamond coast in
the morning. If its stones aren’t forever, there’s

always Mercury Island farther out. Its grains will
slide through your fingers harmlessly. Your doctor
back home will say it was just a mild brain fever.




Tesla’s black cat, whose back I read
became a “sheet of light” when he

stroked it, a shower of sparks filling
the whole house. “Is nature a gigantic

cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can
only be God,” he said at last. Intended

for the clergy, which “prospect hung
like a dark cloud” on his mind, he’d

stretch himself like Macak, waiting for
the sun to show above the rim, its first

rays flashing across the horizon. Macak
came out from behind the stove, biting

into a tidbit Tesla held out till its nose
disappeared, very like Tesla in face,

the creature Tesla most liked to be left
alone with, liked talking to when upset.

Some say he’d go on his knees before
Macak, beg forgiveness, admit to being

foolish, but by and by come to his senses,
stop baying. “That’s right,” I hear him say

when Macak showers his face with licks,
“Be alone, that is the secret of invention.”




Crossing the Arabian Sea, DH Lawrence
lived out days of “unprecedented wonder,”

nowhere near nagging Frieda yet till final
bitterness set in; at peace with the empty

space before him, not expecting  anyone
else to find fault with him. Where is that

drawing of him weaving a seine net, cutting
cords with his pocketknife, wattling them

with nimble fingers while watching waves
break and curl under? He seems to be

saying, “You can have one of my eyes,”
to the deckhand instructing him, whose

patch blackens his face. Whistler could
have drawn them, but wouldn’t have

called it “innocent gazing.” Nor bowed
his head as I did before it without looking

up till the museum guard said, “Closing
soon, sir.” Wish I’d given him my copy of

Sons and Lovers; “But he must be made
abstract first,” the only line underlined.


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 published 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.

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