ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Robert Joe Stout

Relapse, Chronic Fatigue


I look old… shadows fondle
her lips as she squints
past the balcony rail

towards sailboats swaying
in the still-warm breeze.
Not as old as me… I murmur

but something in the space
that separates my hand
from her shoulder

seems to dissolve
whatever meaning 
my words might have had.

I clear my throat to begin
again as she turns,
the haze blurring her eyes

parting to reveal bright-plumaged birds,
foudroyant parties--then gone.
Dead. Blank. You need to rest…

syllables like stones
as I look again—the two of us
skim rooftops, dance…

I’m not doing well, I need…
I hear but see us as we could have been
ski-slope bundled, laughing,

foreign cities in our eyes.
…to rest… another stone
within us falling hard.



He hung millet from the sill and suet
on the branches, watched and told the finches
about lumber camps and logging trains, the Downtown Bar
and Beth and Lu and other brown-skinned klootches.

He gave the boy who swept his sidewalks
silver quarters that he’d saved and asked
the Avon lady to pick gifts for nieces
and his sister in Duluth. In season

he watched football games—the screen
but not the sound—ate lunches
that young housewives brought him
in a van marked MEALS ON WHEELS.

At night, instead of going to bed,
he drank cheap California wine,
closed all the blinds and talked to shadows
about children, tombstones, Hell.


Robert Joe Stout @robertjoestout

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