ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Ian Ganassi


Pain is a funny thing, he said, the way it moves around
And you move around with it. Try walking on hot coals, for instance.

That and the air full of dead skin and insect feces make for
A cadaverous atmosphere. The telltale dust motes in the telltale

Beams of sunlight. But there's no time for that on military time.
The Navy Seals getting out of hand in their frog suits. A shot

Of Thorazine and they hit the floor—adventures in psychopharmacology.
They joined the Navy and saw the Army, coming back rancid,

Missing various body parts. But what are we to do? Admire? Laugh? Cry?
It was a question not even a voting booth could answer.

Play that tune again, Joey, whatever it's called. Everybody has their prejudices,
Even if they don't let on or don't realize it. Of course they're the first

To let you know, in deed or words. They discharge them with relish
And onions on the side. Slathered with mustard. But he could sleep for years

And then dive unexpectedly into the old swimming hole, which was deeper
Than we thought. You could see the hooks in the lumps of white bread

Showing bright against the murky waters where the carp were golden
Around the tiny island, "sagging downstream," as Hendrix wrote it.

Meanwhile, drowning in a sea of damp carpet bags, it was all the porter could do
To maintain order in the observation car. I enjoyed my Turkish cigarettes up there, 

On the way to Vancouver, basking in the light from the Canadian Rockies.
It's the ideal page in the sky, an exemplary rectangle. 

Or else it was simply a pointed stutter, lisping in numbers. Have you seen
The way they stand on the threshold muttering? I believe they will take the next step.





Like an elephant in a wax museum,
The bull put on its dancing shoes
In the hall of mirrors.

But I was haunted, or more accurately, loomed over.
This was all due to a hole or rent in time.

She really wanted something
That really didn't exist.

It will not do to investigate
The subject of religion too closely.

The wind and pot smoke fluttering by,
Nostalgia for something
I could have lived very well without.

"Maybe I brought this on myself," he said,
Referring to his cancer.
Far be it from me to rush to such a conclusion.

But am I my brother's keeper?
Innocent as Genghis Kahn's horse?

Actually quite startling—
The way a wave grows enormous
At the beach.

The grocery cart I chose stumbled down
The aisle like a drunken bridegroom
Or a damaged bowling ball.

Her cat and his clock.
Remember never to approach me too closely
With that sort of inevitability.

An urn for the ashes.

She used to do the Lindy Hop.




I can always be counted on to put my foot in it.
There were a few miniature poodles parading the girders
Of loneliness. If you can't make time you can count it.

Countless peonies drooping among the cornflowers.
And here I sit like a bum while the world trundles off to work.
But once they get you they've got you, one way or the other.

Her message lacked all mercy,
Which was true to form, once too often.

She fiddled till the fiddle burst and the pigeons
Flew out. A club by any other name, a soda. What club?

The soda club. No, not "as if," rather, "for sure."
And always be prepared.

Girl Scout Cookies are questionable,
But it gives you a warm feeling to purchase a box.
Or sell one. "You sure know how to treat a girl."

But what are the ingredients? Maybe, like soylent green,
They're made of Girl Scouts—literally Girl Scout cookies.

Whatever purpose they filled, it's gone the way of all flesh.
Yesterday's workout has my nervous system ajar. I often wonder
Why I bother. We had so much fun with the rope swing

We eventually killed the tree.
Then he worked as a cabby, with a sideline in dope.

She was in charge of dispatching the dispatchers.
With a silencer. Shut up in there already.


Ian Ganassi's poetry, prose and translations have appeared in over 100 literary venues, in print and online, including New American Writing, The Yale Review, and New England Review. Poems appear in the current issue of Otoliths and are forthcoming in Home Planet News. His poetry collection Mean Numbers was published by China Grove Press in September of 2016, and is available on Amazon. New England Review has published his translations of Books 1-7 of Virgil's Aeneid. Selected images from an ongoing collaboration with painter Laura Bell can be viewed at, as well as in Offcourse#61.

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