ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Stuart Friebert


—found poem: The Food Explorer/Daniel Stone

The chief yelled the Fijian word for "hot,"
then dropped the piece of ice, had to be
persuaded to pick it up again; wasn't hot,
but extremely cold! Someone suggested
he put it in his mouth, and when he did
he smiled, then passed the shrinking cube
down a line of his men, each holding it
on his tongue before passing it along.
Everyone grinned, some even giggled.



When Tristan Gooley writes, "Anything
that lands on water will bend the surface
skin slightly, even the tiniest of insects on
a clear, shallow pond will create a beautiful
pattern on the bottom: tiny, bright pools
of sunshine, one for each of its tiny feet,"
I pay attention, because I've been a poor
fly-caster, never catch much while others
fill their creels. Oh, I follow their tips about
which fly to use, but now I realize my flies
land too hard, the way my son's plane would
have problems if he didn't bring it down just
so. Thinking of him now, off on Guam, not
exactly out of harm's way, though he assures
it's still pretty much business as usual; they'd
know if things were getting really dicey, just
look to the surrounding waters for build-up,
sudden "activity" – "No worries yet, Dad."

A parent himself, he must have worries though
for his own son in these turbulent times, how
not to think and feel things are getting worse.
Of course I should hold my tongue, not borrow
trouble from tomorrow, as the saying goes, and
Charles Schulz comes to mind, "Don't worry about
the world coming to an end today, for it's already
tomorrow in Australia" (not that far from Guam!).
When I turn to Matthew 6:34, I realize how much
that seems negative can also be seen as positive,
so it's back to "tiny, bright pools of sunshine" & to
"accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative,"
find that old Bing Crosby recording, raise a glass
to Johnny Mercer of course, and as he has it,
"listen to the children," who in our case'd be
Master Felix, about to turn ten and on course
with all the world's children to atone for our sins.



— for Gary, who knows BH

Bernd Heinrich calls ravens, who partner
with wolves to hunt, calling from on high

till wolves open other mammals' bodies,
then eat side by side, whose artful wings

can be heard flapping at some distance, for
instance by us now in our tent, sleeping bags

zippered up to chins, straining to catch last
faint murmurs before eyelids flutter: on to

REM sleep! Better at remembering dreams,
Gary opens some over morning coffee to my

confusion. Something about Jung, collective
consciousness, things circling things, touching

spines sticking out of flesh, some law of nature
to answer to. I stammer that the laws of nature

have reversed at times. Gary frowns, knows I love
trying his patience, say anything to be contrary —

best thing, change the subject: Remember the old
Algonquin tale, ravens flew and flew till reaching

the end of time? Well, we have the honor of not
understanding that either… Don't know about you,

he says, diving into his waders, blowing a smoke-ring,
But I need to find a good hole to cast from in the river.



Recall Aphrodite and Venus sprang from some,
according to Hesiod the result of Uranus' genitals
having been lopped off by Cronus, pitched into
the sea; but not alas depicted in any paintings,
not even Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. "Foam,"
I read, may not be found anywhere else except
on Earth, where water blows across open water
to make some; one moment stopping to spritz up,
the next vortexing around till it finds itself only
gods know where.
                          Mist around our bow, now, while
we slip into rain gear for what will turn out to be
our last fishing trip together. Readying our rods, he
doesn't change his expression. It's getting harder
and harder to guess his next move. He's never been
quite right about my going off to books, ignoring his
advice to develop a trade to fall back on, just in case.
One thing I know: not much longer until he'll complain
mother's castrating him … won't, you know…
                                                                                    Oh, Dad!
I want to scream but of course never can. Want to
take him off to some Greek island for some unknown fish,
see the sea foam as it never does elsewhere, so thick you
can't wipe it off your face, bounce on waves that curl your
hair, shake a fist at the heavens and shout, I dare you!

Instead, I hold out a fingertip to him, hoping he'll point
one back, see if there's any current left between us.
He gives me one of those "for chrissake let's have more
than a finger" looks, holds out a soft hand and I respond
to his pressure.



So called for unknown reasons,
my etymological dictionary says,

but I can think of a few. Beady eyes,
body half as wide as long, thick skin,

tons of teeth but swallows prey whole,
a.k.a. goliath grouper, can pack 1000+

pounds on its 8 foot body, humans and
large sharks its only predators. Females

squirt some fifty million eggs out for sperm
to join the party, overwrought to the point

of madness. Do you know where this is going?
I sure don't, have washed my face with a bar

of soap my uncle somehow saved from his
Death Camp days, gargled to quiet my throat,

and finally stopped screaming after throwing
Bettelheim's The Informed Heart against the wall.

Must e-mail my German pal, a foremost Arendt
scholar, Please, Thomas, what exactly did she mean?

Not to mention why is anybody suggesting arming
schoolteachers is a good idea? That'd be a dreadful

life, standing at the blackboard with your back to
the class, your Glock holstered, hurting your hip,

impossible not to think of a hallway duel, impossible
to think you could avoid it if. The veins in your throat

swell, your nostrils quiver. Ever get called a queer fish?
Well, I did, a month back in the P.O., by a guy who can't

shake your hand without crunching it. I screamed so
loud – arthritic fingers stick out every which way —

Tony the cop, who happened to be outside, came
bursting in, his gun cocked. We sort of joke about it

now, telling each other things are never going to get
out of hand in our little burg, feste, Luther might say.

Ever read what he wrote about Jews? I'd tell him I was
ready to hear anything he had to say, depending he'd say

nothing ever again about Jews, offer to take him fishing,
promise I'd make him an unforgettable meal he could

say the Blessing at. We'd start off with gramma's recipe
for gefilte fish: "Stupidoll," she'd coo, just bring me back

some Jewfish filets, remember to sharpen your knife."

"Between Question & Answer: Selected Poems of Ute von Funcke," Stuart Friebert's 16th volume of translations (some of which appeared in Offcourse), will appear this fall from Pinyon Publishing. "Decanting: Selected & New Poems," out from Lost Horse Press in 2017, is the latest of his 16 books of poems. This batch in Offcourse is aboard a new collection, halfway "there"...

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