ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Doug Ramspeck

Night Trains

She hears them in the distance like bodies laid out

across some opium summer, like dark blisters

on the skin of a breath. And what they are saying

is modulated yet slathered with sweat, like dozing

as a child beneath a cyst of sun, drained by

the trocar of July. Her sisters—sunbathing

beside her—were flesh and freight and dust devils

levitating in their father's field. One winter the snow

covered their steps as they walked in the dark to the railroad

tracks, where nothing existed except the laddered

sky and the falling gray and the viscous vibrations

of air. And the three of them, together, shouted into it.


Field Dressing

I keep trying to speak like a flaring shadow.

The crows are a blackout, are paper parasols.
           I am standing by the fence when my father 

emerges from the woods. The clouds

secrete their white juices.
           Words have their stations, after all.

They writhe into one shape

and then another.
           The deer is on my father's back.

Four legs forward.

Neck lolling. And down—as my father kneels—
           the creature falls.

There is blood on the snow.

This is what is effaced
           is still there.

The knife in the belly, sternum to crotch.

The tongue shuddering
           in birdlime.

 I am the author of six poetry collections and one collection of short stories. My most recent book, Black Flowers (2018), is published by LSU Press. Four books have received awards: The Owl That Carries Us Away (G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction), Original Bodies (Michael Waters Poetry Prize), Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize for Poetry). Individual poems have appeared in journals that include The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, Slate, and The Georgia Review. I am a two-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. A professor at The Ohio State University at Lima, I teach creative writing. 

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