ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Three Poems by John Amen, from “My Gallery Days”




for Donovan

You arrived circa New Year’s, Apollo of the East Side,
                    posturing in vintage fur & pensive on 79th,
          w/in weeks rawboned, a wannabe Artaud
          replete w/ nose ring & track marks on pallid skin,
swarmed by crabs in Washington Heights.

I never scathed yr 1-strokes, how you kneeled for the realists,
but had to draw blood when you puddled (flatlining or not)
                    on Vicki’s god-clean floor.

                    You left behind a Vuitton of stationery
& half-hearted motel sketches, a webpage w/ shattered links.
          Yeah, I ferried you upriver, back to yr momma’s blue
blue hospital, could’ve been worse than 30 days on a gurney.

                    But let’s be generous:
no one’ll forget yr improvised sonnets @ Bleecker & dawn.



for Leslie

Yr mural never dried, the courts couldn’t corral
the evangelists w/ their spraypaint & scripture.

To hoard self-portraits in a shrinking room,
          counting pills while yr cellphone bleats:
                    the beginning of the fall.

Bloggers trampled the broadband,
          you swilled a month of vitriol,
                    a semester in retrograde, untenured.

Interpretation so often exceeds intention,
          why’s it always the waif
                    who’s accused of being the witch?

You nodded from the Bowery Mission to the news
back to the Bowery Mission w/ a Demerol smoothie
          —treading Augustine ’til no morning after.



Leslie, I saw yr ghost in the Frederick, those blue
shoes & a Red Bull, yr popularity a summer squall,
debt don’t respond to no standard dance moves.

          So sorry for polishing off the tortillas,
& I did indeed snag the Benjamins from the mousetrap,
          gossiping w/ Laurie over shots.

I added to my resume the 7 credits in Spiegel Park.
Diversion remains the only god I know. Leslie,
could you hear the taxmen & bulldozers in the distance?

          In yr finest hour w/ a brush & Bourbon,
          oblivious to audits & thunder from Albany,
          you choked on the grant & gagged the interview.

A trip to East 9th shifted the mood for an hour,
but damn the coke vapors, a devil kicking in my lungs.


John Amen is the author of five collections of poetry; most recently, strange theater (New York Quarterly Books), a finalist for the 2016 Brockman-Campbell Award. His poetry, fiction, reviews, and essays have appeared in journals nationally and internationally, and his poetry has been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, Korean, and Hebrew. In addition, he has released two folk rock CDs: All I’ll Never Need and Ridiculous Empire. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine.

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