ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Devon Balwit


Second Skin

Standing before them, day after day,
I need a second skin, a smoother one,
a thicker one. With my smoother one,
I could once again wield the firefly
glow of flirtation, my body a tool
along with my voice, lean over their
desks, lay a light hand on their arms
as I spoke, draw back full lips from
teeth that could suck, kiss, bite, not
just purse and stretch to vowels. I
could wink an eye not lost in the
dry wadi of my orbitals, the brushy
waste of cheek. I could once again
be Scheherazade (or to those of this
generation Daenerys Stormborn).
With my thicker skin, I could withstand
their laughter at my irrelevance, the
way I hesitate when navigating cord
and keypad, my blankness before the
names of their heroes, their pastimes,
my emergent dewlaps, my arm flaps,
the line of my panties as I turn to
write on the board—all the ways in
which the old become risible in the
brief glance before the young turn away.



Life Lesson

was go, was play, was found, did be
they answer, no amount of charts
boxes, arrows of any use.  I teach
the dullest blades, the bottom feeders.
I could pick one or the other, hurl them
at various targets, it wouldn’t matter,
inevitably, they would bounce off, miss
by a mile, sinking back into the murk. 
Before one day, last day. One day
ago, yesterday, I correct, sweat beading
forehead and jaw.  It won’t matter. 
Why be dogged?  Really, I should just
chime in: Before one day, we was go
to school, we was study, we was work,
our teacher did be sad, she didn’t
be happy No, she didn’t be.  She was
got off the career train one stop too
early, she was sold herself too short to
be asking, day after day, Is it a verb? 
Is it an adjective?  Is it a job?  Is it a life?




Dear Sir or Madam,
A nearly senescent supernumerary,
I am doing all within my power
to stay relevant.  Please think of me
when facing any matter requiring
introspection, fretting, light piffle.
I am more than willing to mulct
misbegotten wastrels or other
prodigals, while exercising
(or is it exorcising) great tact. 
An expert in bathos, I stand
ready to plunge into the gibbous,
germinating morals (or is it
morels), mooning over, and
indeed, swooning before
plethora. No one is more
expeditiously circumspect
than I, avuncular, oracular,
yet, if, conversely, it’s boldness
you want, no one will fulminate
as fulsomely as I.  You can rest
assured that all credence shall
and will redound upon your
(highly esteemed) self.  As my
references can testify, I am most
vinous, clinging venally to those
I service.  Please reprimand all
correspondences to the attached
addressee.  Yours, and only, me.



Shake Hands

One of my daughters hates her body—
not just teenaged my thighs are so
fat, my eyes are too small, my skin is
bad, my nose looks like a lump of
dough kind of hatred but the why must
we be flesh at all, shitting, bleeding,
eating, sleeping, why not pure mind
kind.  What to say?  It gets better? 
Not exactly.  It gets better, then much,
much worse.  Just when you overcome
adolescent awkwardness, find your sexual
rhythm, accept the desultory way your
parts are thrown together, you start to rot. 
You get ringworm between your breasts,
rolls of belly fat, fallen arches, lose
your sexual desire, your hair, the luster
of your skin.  You become an old house,
surface peeling, boards askew.  Oh, the body,
I want to say.  That old devil—your clitoris
just inches away from your hemorrhoids,
your lips hovering above dewlaps, your
hands as ridged and porous as paper mâché.
The body is the big joke.  Get it?  It’s
the wet fart in the solemn moment, the
malapropism, the ballast.  Leave pure
mind to the AI guys—and even they are
busying themselves with giving computers
orgasms.  If not the whole deal, the body
is most.  Shake hands with it, masturbate,
eat an ice cream cone, pour yourself a
generous shot of whatever’s your fancy.
Be like an old dog, waddling, incontinent,
but still thumping its tail, leaning
towards the petting hand, still
licking, licking its empty plate.


Devon Balwit is a poet and teacher living in Portland, Oregon. She has poems published or upcoming in The NewVerse News, The Fog Machine, The Cape Rock, The Fem, drylandlit_press, The Prick of the Spindle, 3Elements, and Birds Piled Loosely.

Return to Offcourse Index.