ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Vincent M. Bell



metal zippers
hit the dryer's drum
the dishwasher beeps
as it changes cycles

the lamp by my chair
goes on and off
without me
my heart beats
an unknown rhythm

slow the metronomes
so I can savor the rest



asleep on a bench in a Boston

bus station — having missed the last
one to Maine — they cleared us out
to close and clean, so we walked
the streets until first bus out.

finally in South Berwick 

we slept on a large block of foam.
our host had been so drunk
that he passed out last night;
so he wouldn't have picked us up

trying to get over Susan

the only ways I knew —
drugs, booze and women;
all were my coke enabling
me to cope with no future.

a complete wreck running on luck

the job at a bookstore allowed
lateness and layered hangovers
because I kept them in coke and
I had book knowledge.



One college summer,
I was a copyboy at the Trib,
aka, the New York Herald Tribune,
delivering mail, proofs and trays of type.
Words were the unit of measure
which we moved
from floor to floor around the clock,
again and again.
Its nameless reporters were better writers
than at other papers.
They only had typewriters, paper and erasers.
The floor was always covered with paper
which made noise as you walked.
There were only a few women writers
and they kept their pencils in their hair.
Men wore hats and vested suits
and jammed their pencils behind their ears.
Everyone smoked, and some chomped on cigars.
there was a modulated din,
which only accentuated the haze.
The cityroom was its own caricature,
hot and smelly as a subway car.



stringing words together
challenges you — makes you
unsure of your emotions
images that change your mind

not writing words just to fit in
or make you comfortable
confirming what you already know
just more icing on your icing

real poems eliminate ordinary
days, strain relationships and
make you less certain of your self



My body has a skim coat,
newer than a young man's skin.
Unlike snake casings,
it appeared slowly -
not noticed until almost done.
Sometimes it feels like a onesie,
but it's just me.

My hands are starting to look
like my father's pair
bulging veins and smaller tributaries,
lots of purple, bruising easily.
Old men with coumadin tattoos
disturbed me,
but now I'm comfortable
with my own stigmata.

My skin was smooth and tight
now it's dry and loose
with mounds and tendrils.
My nose ripens and my gizzard sags
only keeping time
with my old man's hands.

Vincent Bell received BS and MS degrees in English and Humanities from New York University and an MBA from Fordham University. He had always wanted to be a full-time writer, but went into business after graduate school. Vincent continued to write poetry while working and now in retirement is writing full-time. He has been studying at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center with Jennifer Franklin. He has also taken courses with Michael Patrick Collins and Chris Campanioni.
Vincent lives with his wife in Ardsley, NY and they have two grown children.

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