ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Robert Joe Stout


Boxes filled
to overflowing

I jam sweatshirts,
books, odd utensils

in wastebaskets,
garbage bags, stack magazines
I’ve read on bedroom shelves
to leave behind,

pad computer, printer
with torn clothes,
the cat sniffing, pawing
tail a switch;

I kneel to pet her
and she growls disapproval
that I share
not because of change

but loss: We imprint
where we live
with who we are
and leaving feel

the hieroglyph dissolve.
Hand against the now bare wall
I say goodbye. The house
does not respond.



Rotarian Convention: Tlalpan, Mexico 

waiters swick
hot tortillas,
mescal worms,
charred nubs of pork,
refill caballitos de tequila,
laugh and swirl
steaming entrees,
mounds of salad,
touch (but gently!)
women’s shoulders,
offer risquè jokes.
At nearby tables
from-the-provinces group leaders
rise to imitate the singers,
raise their glasses,
offer toasts. Money
spilling from the tip trays,
wave to chauffeurs;
amid abrazos pontificate
their worldly worth
and laughing promise
next year! another get-together
to benefit mankind.





Wispy beings undulate the shadows
as I turn, awake—or half-awake and
half in dream—and sense a splinter

from the fattened moon penetrate the curtains.
Who—who is there? Voices much like mine
call back and who…are you? and for a moment

caught between the shadows and my waking self
I lose all sense of body, time. A spark,
a thought, somewhere in space, a momentary

flare then dark, no light, no moon, no sky,
no me. Then shapes re-form—the curtains first,
bookcase and closet, lamps, the bed. I move.

Or something does: my legs, my hands; my eyes
perceive what’s always been—trees and rooftops,
cars and darkened neon signs—and  I reach out

for something that I thought I’d found,
then realize it’s always been where
I have been, away from thought—out there.




The who I was
has sprung a leak
and gushes faces,
kisses, naked breasts,
all those lovelies
long forgotten
(some imagined?)
and some nameless

the who I am
a fragile shadow
of emotions past
as I watch others
saunter past my window,
so inviting, so abstract.


Robert Joe Stout is a freelance journalist. He is the author of Hidden Dangers, Monkey Screams, Where Gringos Don’t Belong, A Perfect Throw, Running Out the Hurt and Why Immigrants Come to America. He lives in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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