ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Three Poems by Francis Blessington

Light and Magpies

Alone in twenty Spanish rooms
and four centuries, I search an artist’s
inheritance of bric-a-brac
framed in timber and plaster
on a mountainside.

Darkening portraits. New painting too,
beachscapes, dead trees erupting
from cut fields, the outside
where I labor in summer
with the campesinos,
bulls and horses for meat,
the women reaping, scarfed
in gauze like Breughel’s.

I bathe in a tub bathed in
after battle by Napoleon III.
In the tiny chapel
an angel peeps from
a black wooden column by the altar 
and I am further soothed
by a wedding plaque.

More arts overwhelm me:
a harpsichord I barely play.
Ancient instruments I strike and rattle.
I am a child playing museum,
The outside heat
cooled by thick stone.

I wander the Wunderkammern
of the doorless cupboards,
old plates and cups
covered in Quixotic dust
to the long gallery of the attic

where finally luz y urracas
of the torn roof
play in the bright rain.




You were buried in summer heat,
a day you would have scouted alone,
camera-ready across the Acropolis
when ways were free and travelers wise,
you and the lizards who flit with
the wind fluting the columns.

Named for one of your burned-to-death siblings,
You played in that room of triple sorrow,
marked today in Freemason stars, a memorial
that industry now houses for meditations.
In old age you burned your kitchen.
But you stepped beyond fire.

At your wake, a picture poses a woman
standing on a ship, monitoring the glittering ocean.



The Cranke

Beggars simulating epilepsy <were> known as the "Cranke" . . . in European cities during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
                                                                                   —Frederick Brown, Flaubert


Beggars, working small change,
twitched along European roads,
falling close-eyed,
biting pseudo-tongues—
Caesar's convulsions—epilepsy!
Risking horror for charity,
drawing upon Satan's seizure—
or God's—the "falling sickness" paid off.

Till Dr. Samuel Tissot pronounced
masturbation the cause and their very
sight or imitation was contagion.
Companies abated,
beggars clenched their fists,
theatres throve.


Francis Blessington has published two books of poems. Wolf Howl and Lantskip as well as Paradise Lost: Ideal and Tragic Epic, Paradise Lost and the Classical Epic and many essays, short stories, verse translations of Euripides’ The Bacchae and Aristophanes’ The Frogs, and a novel, The Last Witch of Dogtown. His translation of Euripides’ Trojan Women won the Der-Hovanessian Prize for the best translation in 2011. His latest book is Euripides: Trojan Women, Helen, Hecuba: Three Plays about Women and the Trojan War. Verse Translations. University of Wisconsin Press, 2015.

His poems have appeared in Appalachia, Arion, Cumberland Poetry Review, The Dalhousie Review, Denver Quarterly,The Florida Review, Frank, Harvard Magazine, Light, Literary Imagination, New Letters, Offcourse, The Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Southern Review, Yankee, and in many other journals.

Return to Offcourse Index.