ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Prose Poems by Richard Krause


Tonight I noticed my cuticle receding.  Lately it has passed my notice.  I have been preoccupied with other, more important things.  But its invisibility struck me tonight. There's nothing left of it.  My nails are naked, unprotected, unbuffered by that soft layer of transparency covering the small white moons that contrast with the pink of the rest of the nail.  They usually have receded when I've submitted them to the inclemency of soap detergents—how they suffered under my mania for cleanliness, but before they always returned.  Now they have disappeared altogether. Nothing remains.  My nails are a desert.  Nothing grows atop of them.  They are barren, a glaze.  Recently they have started to buckle and show ridges, paths of horny striations that lead to the nail's edge, that serve no purpose but to show a material discontent with the surface they make up.  My nails seem to have lost their purpose.  The skin has fled them and they don't even scratch me as they were wont to do.  They used to dig deeply into my skin, score it with red wheals that would rise like velvet even before the nails had fully left them.  To do homage to what created pain—to the pleasure it mixed in.  Yes, my skin has always been half in love with my nails.  Their capacity for digging, their insensitivity to what was almost a wholly different condition of matter than themselves, so soft is it by comparison.  And how it loved the hardness of the nails, the relief they brought.  How the skin even in anticipation of that pleasurable relief would exacerbate itself; how tiny networks of itchiness would make it crawl to touch itself, would make it feel the futility of never truly being allied with itself, and how the nails would itch to get at the swaths of skin with the most urgent summons.  The nails sometimes would do their duty so well that they would rub the skin raw, neglect all the signals of pain, but scratch and scratch until it was insensate--until red blood replaced the moisture it lacked, until it lubricated the deserted areas of most need, until it quenched the skin's thirst.  Quickly however it dried, but sore and inflamed.  For days it couldn't be touched, gotten near.  And I wonder if the nails felt less useful at those times when they submitted to functions of mock importance like peeling grapes, or pulling tape, or providing leverage to areas inaccessible.  For always they would wait for their natural reunion with the body that gave them birth.  Crave to scratch what they grew from, hardened for.  But lately that desire has left me.  Winter is coming and my body is growing cold.  And even the wool sweaters I wear are no longer able it seems to summon the old lust to my fingertips.


An Ugly Sounding Name

I never liked someone with an ugly sounding name—the -sawa at the end of her name (though aptly suffixed and common in Japan) repelled me, while her personal charms attracted me.  Nevertheless the name kept repeating itself in my mind over and over again, insisting that I be disenchanted with her.  As if her name alone had an aesthetic life of its own that competed with and wanted to overturn my natural attraction to her.  It was as if her name was independently alive, and that no matter what personal preference I had for her, it was bound to be interfered with by the resounding pronunciation of her name within my ears.  No matter how much I tried to focus my attention on her separate and individual charms, the name—its suffix alone separated for me into hissings s's, elongating to a painful ahhh! and finally an expressive waaa! that rang with the sense of an unformed question—came between us.  And as much as I tried to escape the separateness of her name, detach her from it, the more did its latter part cohere with a porcine stubbornness that crowded out whatever delicacy I found on her face, that upturned her nose and emphasized its wrinkling saying it—which I had her do many times to torment myself.  Her name selected her most unattractive features, its sound in her mouth made them visual for me each time.  The vowelate ease of its repetition (sometimes I imagined she almost took pleasure saying her name for me!) kept misshaping them, warping my desire for her.  It pugged the nose unsympathetically, it narrowed the eyes to an unlustered squint, it enlarged the ears driving the chin towards the lips so that it easily assisted the upturned nose in exposing only the nostrils.  Finally I turned away from her face because of her name.


Richard Krause's collection of fiction, Studies in Insignificance, was published by Livingston Press, and his epigram collection, Optical Biases, was published by EyeCorner Press in Denmark. Another collection of his stories, The Horror of the Ordinary, has been accepted by Unsolicited Press for publication next March.  Since 2017 his fiction has appeared in Hackwriters Magazine, ink&coda, Cold Creek Review, Subtle Fiction, EXPOUND, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Flash Fiction Magazine.His prose poems have more recently appeared in Scapegoat ReviewTurk's Head Review, and this summer in Courtship of Winds. He teaches at Somerset Community College in Kentucky. 

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