ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by J.R. Solonche




They wanted the tour they said
to be "a positive experience."
So they don't say how he died,

the muzzle of the shotgun
in his mouth, his brains all over
the walls of the house in Ketchum.

The cats are descended from his.
They are everywhere.
Many have six toes.

One night he got drunk, brought home
a urinal from Sloppy Joe's
and made a water trough for them.

The best part is the studio.
That it isn't in the house.
That it's in the guesthouse where he'd go

to write The Green Hills
of Africa and A Farewell to Arms
and For Whom the Bell Tolls,

standing there beneath
the glass-eyed gaze of the antelope,
the eraser of the pencil in his teeth.




Straight lines. Right angles. Symmetry.
Water has learned geometry,
stone, the split, flat flake of crystal,

tree, shrub, weed, the plane's bisections,
to live on ends, on edges well
enough to hold the same seasons

as any soil shoots roots and seize.
And, descending through epochs, we
learn from gouged, gray walls, tilted hall

of the deep past, gauged by this stone
by stone of indifference until
disgorged, what time's gorged itself on.




I read a poem today about a spider,
who, smaller than an ant, wasn't worth killing,
and all day I've thought a lot about that spider
and the size a spider ought to be to be worth

killing, whether a spider ought to be the same
size as an ant or whether it ought to be bigger
than an ant to be worth killing, and if so
how much bigger than an ant a spider

ought to be, twice as big, five times, ten,
and I thought that someone really ought
to have an answer to this question for
it is a question worth someone's time,

some scientist, some molecular biologist
with advanced degrees in molecular biology,
or some theologian with advanced degrees
in theology and comparative religion,

or some physicist of subatomic physics,
surely ought to know the precise size,
the exact calculation, the absolute zero of worth,
the cause and effect, the quantum of killing.

Five-time Pushcart as well as Best of the Net nominee, J.R. Solonche has been publishing poetry in magazines and anthologies since the early 70s. He is coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books) and author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions,) Heart's Content (Five Oaks Press,) and Won't Be Long: Poems Short, Poems Shorter, Poems Shortest (forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions). He lives in New York's Hudson Valley with his wife, the poet Joan I. Siegel and nine cats, at least three of whom are poets.
His work has appeared frequently in Offcourse

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