ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Six Prose Poems by John Amen

Thirteen Months

          for CF

Saint Everywhere knew my name. She poised on the top rung of a ladder, reaching for the moon or a noose or a blackbird. Night after night, I woke trying to catch my breath. My afternoons unraveled like a forgotten prayer. I spent hours wrestling the angel of addiction, my story in cuts & bruises, tunnels in the skin. I've always wanted more, more of what never happened. I want my clinging & to forget it too.



          for Richard

Your red pistol, dried sunflowers, that unfinished canvas – visions of you wrapped in a gunpowder glare. The living fled, scattering their complaints like blood meal. You stayed behind, howling in the shelves. You couldn't have left if you'd wanted to.



          for Richard

I could see my son talking to himself, shadow-boxing his diagnosis. I remember wearing a hat made of smoke. What hurts is I left the ones I love wandering in the leaves, it wasn't entirely by choice, I barely remember that carefree bullet.


At Some Point

          for Richard

You flapped for the sun, the sky held its ground. Rubber light & Oxy dawns. Flash of the barrel, your name powder in the dark, how my own life is divided – the silence before, the silence after.



          for Richard

A visit from our mother of blades, dressed in gauze, eyelids smeared with blue mascara. Why'd he pull the trigger? she asked. Remnants of you tethered to a sulfuric cloud, our mother's shrill voice bouncing in the tunnel. I pulled the space blanket tight & prayed over your corpse. New voices instructed me, rising from the glow of September.


Waiting for the Sibyl

         after Abbas Kiarostami

Each morning, I sat in a purple courtyard. Tomorrow, I was told, maybe tomorrow. I never saw the sibyl, crashing my assignment, had no byline to peddle, no proof for the doubters, another Abel wandering a red world with a mark against him. For years I've studied the shadows that lurk behind a curtain, listening for a voice in the rafters. Visions flood my limbs before sleep churns like a pound lock, the sibyl ever silent, eyes unflinching in the dark. I've made it my life's work to put words in her mouth.


John Amen is the author of several collections of poetry, including Illusion of an Overwhelm, a finalist for the 2018 Brockman-Campbell Award. His poetry and prose have appeared recently in American Literary ReviewColorado ReviewPrism, and Prairie Schooner, among other publications. He founded and edits The Pedestal Magazine.

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