ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Paul B. Roth



A blank page floating in off Owasco’s shore curls up asleep on my nightstand.

Steep staircases descend its blinding white depth. Where I enter, microsopic fibers widen and soften their wood around me.

A seepage of clear water and breathless forests shoot up through my lymph nodes’ congregation of red vegetation.

My breathing rises from a puddle late afternoon rains create and drifts through a bodiless night.

Fireflies sparkle my way across a forest’s dark floor.

Oak leaves wag my tongue’s ganglia from each open-ended surface quenched by raindrops.

I’m happy hanging where that gaping hole around me and this blank page having its usual way with me simply let go.





Fingerpainting blood patterns in swirls down plowed hillsides or up a shore fire’s smoke even porcupine quills can’t quite snag

Pounding hard between the wings a hummingbird zips, loops or rests alert on its perch

Slowing down inside the coral snake bathing its skin’s red and black geometrics in sun-drenched dust around morning’s warm shoulders

So full of endless afternoons, one assumes an abundance of tears is more than enough to buoy a punctured heart

But that’s wrong the way a FOR SALE sign sledgehammered into undisturbed acreage is wrong

The way pipefitters wrenching fractured shale’s belch from each flame-coughing faucet and shower head is wrong

The way rainbow-finned fish stuffed and mounted under glass along a yacht’s spit and polished galley wall is wrong

The way emptiness filling everything with a loss only nothing can replace is wrong





Just who do you think you are stepping to the front door, unlocking it and walking outside as if nothing’s happened?

As if the grief stricken foreheads of the ones you left behind are now warming to your hands the way fresh edges of sawmilled wood once did.

Nothing’s ever the same over and over and over again.

Unseen voices heard yelling there are stars at the top reveal no one’s climbing next to you.

Yet, out of range and existence, the full light of these stars blinds you.

The sticky night’s warm air swabs your ears with pussy willows spun from the unwound cotton-candy fingers of carnivalized children.

Your desperate fingers crumble the edge where Earth barely holds still long enough for you to scramble over its surface.

Having legs more akin to grasshoppers, crickets or katydids, your bent knees spring you forward, kneeling you wherever it is you need to go.


Paul B. Roth has been published widely in the United States and his work has been translated and appeared in journals from Japan, Israel, Bolivia, India, China, Mexico, Romania, Estonia to the UK. He is the author of seven collections of poetry of which his three most current are Cadenzas by Needlelight (Cypress Books, 2009), Words the Interrupted Speak (March Street Press, 2011), and Long Way Back to the End (Rain Mountain Press, 2014). He lives in Fayetteville, NY where he’s served as editor and publisher of The Bitter Oleander Press since 1974.
This is Paul Roth's first appeance in Offcourse.

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