ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Louis Phillips


I win some, I lose some.
The days? What do they know?
They get away from me,
But they never belonged to me
In the first place & by now

I have overstayed my welcome
& am besieged by riddles.
I am the chicken that crossed
The road, the man afraid
Of his own shadow. That said,

I place my deepest trust
In what I do not know,
A universe riddled by sweep
Of mystery, tilt of planets
Over ruin,  amid vast nets

Of shining & darkness. Trust
The living world to lead us
To better versions of ourselves,
The snake with its tail
In its mouth. Tell me, tell

Me what has 6 arms, 6 legs, 3 eyes,
& sings? The Cyclops trio
Singing “I Don’t Know Why
I Love You Like I do.” That doubt too
Does not possess an answer. Cry

Me a river over my life passing.
The days, pushing & pulling,
Know nothing, but when I shed
My skin, what shall I answer?
Better to have gone naked

Than clothed in false wool.
Mortality is the ultimate riddle.
& makes the Sphinx,
Destroying both foul & fair,
Blush with shame. Man?
Solve that riddle If you can.



Flying under the radar of grief,
I want no medals, deserve none.

On the television monitors,
James Cagney stars 

In something or other, 
Some comic relief, no farce, 

He’s being cashiered
Out of the Royal Air Force,

For flying by the seat of his pants.
No romance. 

Like a lost pilot, all my life
I have ignored the instruments

& have flown over  a vast expanse
Of loveliness.

Stars are fixed, but nothing in my life
Can be counted upon

To remain. Planets revolve
Amid indifferent spheres, worlds rife

With mysteries entangled with fog
& rain, wind velocities,

Fragile mortalies & runways
Too undependable to land upon. 

I flew by the seat of my pants.
I have no medals. I deserve none.



Teacher: Well, I wonder what are my chances this morning of interesting you kids in John Keats?
Duane Jackson: None at all.
(Dialogue from the movie)

There are small towns in Texas
& points beyond
Where residents make up

Affectionate names for traffic lights.
Nothing to do
But get drunk, get laid, 

Listen to car radios play
Frankie Lane,
Drive around all night

Murmuring pick-up lines
To screw honky-tonk angels.
Sometimes a heifer will do.

The Royal movie-theater,
Plays Red River
For what feels like forever,

John Wayne up the ass
Of high school girls
& their mothers too.

No more popcorn.
Night lifts high skirts.
Nothing to see.

The old Truth/Beauty
yadda  yada.
Daylight is for funerals.

That lucky sonuvabitch!
He found one way
To get outta this cow shit plaza.



There is just so much sleep to go around
With the bed still warm
From my wife’s body,
Pillows piled high & the annoying sound
Of traffic going somewhere or not.
Another erratic midnight.

 Don McLean got it right:
“Bad news on the doorstep.”
& I got no Chevy either.
Am I the only person not dreaming?
In Apartment 8H, right

Below us, some idiot is playing
First Edition’s
“Just Dropped In to See
What Condition My Condition Was In.”

The human condition? Bah! Humbug.
 It’s the entire bedrock
Of a crumbling nation,

Entire oceans of fish
Are awash with waking & dreaming.

Oceans too choking to death on plastic.


Louis Phillips' books of poems include How Wide the Meadow (World Audience Publishers), The Domain of Silence, The Domain of Absence: New and Selected Poems 1963-2015 (Pleasure Boat Studio), & Krazy Kat Rag (Light Reprints).

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