ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Two Poems by Stuart Friebert



Aka "the moon's vagina," the natives' simile for those
white rings aglow, of guanay cormorants' nests at night,
up to which they venture; the world's hunger for guano
persists. Sitting on the sofa, as the National Geographic
film flutters to an end, it's not quite a "You must change
your life" moment; but watching those men daring death
just to make a living, hearing their high-pitched laughs,
mingled with shrill shrieks, I grow uneasy, clasp my hands
behind my head. The moon I'm looking at from the recliner
I've been glued to lately, no thanks to a broken hip, is just
a sliver. Hard to make out any feature, so I drink a little
more ale before putting down my stein. When I used to get
a little tipsy, before days of "good leg up, bad leg down,"
I'd stumble over the curb, wobble out to the middle of
the street to sing to the moon. Off-key of course, I knew
it was laughing down at me. What was it Robert Bly said,
that blissful day he was gigging at Oberlin, "Don't clap
your hands and yell, 'Come here moon, I need you in my
poem. Right now!' " Many of us are thinking of him now,
up north of here somewhere, praying he's being lovingly
cared for and then some. He'd swirl that serape around
his hulking shoulders and bellow, "You need to hear this
one again, you weren't listening!" Then he'd pull out a uke
from nowhere, start strumming and humming, and we'd all
sway along and wish ourselves way out somewhere, past
the moon, the stars, till an ER doc woke us up, "You'd better
lie down on the gurney, let us have a look at you before…"


After a male has courted a female
unsuccessfully, a SM flies in to oust
him, behavior found in birds, insects,
many other animals and the cuttlefish,
the master among them all which can
convert its skin to a "manly, colorful
display to impress the female," I read.
And imagine doing that on just one side
of your body facing her, on the other side
of which he "sports a female's coloration,
so other males waste time impressing him."

If only I could get back to the North Sea,
in whose sublittoral depths cuttlefish thrive,
I'd perhaps have more to add to their story,
but I'm tired out from changing my colors
over the years, forever restless, not troubling
myself about my own nothingness, the flesh
hanging ever lower from my neck and throat,
as close as a human could come to resembling
a wattlebird no other male's wasted his time on.

Except for that moment in the men's bathroom
at the faculty club in Madison, where I was able
to have a room as a graduate assistant, and my
major professor lived in a suite at the other end
of the corridor, so we'd sometimes meet shaving
mornings at adjacent washbowls. "Next time you
find yourself chasing a bat down toward my door"
— near Lake Mendota, Madison was often chock-
a-block with them – "Why not knock so we can
have a sherry together, something like that?" is
all he said or had to say; and the only time I took no
offence, as I did at times without rhyme or reason.

 "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. These poems are aboard "A DOUBLE LIFE: Poetry & Translation, " out in Spring 2019 from Pinyon Publishing.

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