ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Three Poems by Deborah Bacharach


In the Nuclear Age

In the backroom at the beauty parlor, I peel off
a layer for the woman who offers massage,
tell her I teach English and she doesn't say
she'll have to guard her grammar around me.

She says once she wrote where bombs fell
a mother hunted her lost daughter.

For those who suffer I want to bring
oranges, roses, tulips in fields,
water in all lights. What else is bright?

On the outskirts of Vegas this mother
abandoned whiskey. She took up God
to let the pain through. 

De Kooning forgot paint, the bright
handfuls he used to sculpt
on the canvas. So much of his wild life

I lie here eyes shut, breathing
through her warm hands
while she tells of her son molested. 

You think the worst of the world's
as big as a Brontosaurus. Then archeologists
put together a Gigantosaurus skull—
six feet long, teeth like steak knives.
They find Gigantosaurus
teeth marks in Brontosaurus bones.



Why I Return to Water

Long twists of bull kelp.
I fill them like a shofar,
tekiah silver sharp,
shevarim, the curve of the shore,
teruah, the curve of the sky.

I bury my body in sand. 
Dribble a bit on my leg and pause. 
I try again, dig deeper and now
my legs start to merge
with day and night, with what shifts
and settles. 

Deep in the ocean, sand,
remnants of kings and decrees,
the code of Hammurabi,
comes to write on my skin.

The oceans just barely alive.
The moon pulls
waves through my body.
Something will come to me
a seagull, a grain of sand.

I will know my place in the world.



West of Spokane

I like to stop at Sandy's. If I had a dog,
I could walk it. If I had a kid,
Sandy's got a fenced-in—just gravel,

but she put up a mini tin plane. I could sit
with a daughter curled under my arm,
watch propellers spin, crazy in the wind.

Order ham and cheese, the same dish
every time, Sandy's special.
I like knowing what I like.

Marcus Aurelius would say nothing
wrong with what I wish. He said,
all humans have reason and they can use it.

He said clear the clouds away
from your mind. I get clear driving
a rig up the interstate, the painted

canyons of North Dakota rolling
out my rear view; Montana's stoic
cliffs, the scrub dried days.

There’s a shift of cherry pickers
speaking Spanish. No tents
this summer, no families, they sleep

on hard dirt with the snakes.
They wash in glacial melt.
I'd like to make the drive

to Mexico. If I had a wife I'd tell her.
When my daughter was born
still, I stuck the moon through my ribs

like a shiv. I made myself a prison
for that cold stone. When I watch blossoms
drift off branches, the moon escapes

like winter breath. Marcus Aurelius
would say do the good now. Those petals are
a season gone. Just red hard fruit left.


Deborah Bacharach is the author of After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Collections, 2015). Her work has appeared in The Antigonish Review, New Letters, Arts & Letters, Poet Lore, and Comstock Review among many others. Find out more about her at
This is her first appearance in Offcourse.

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