ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"Some of the World is the World," by Louis Phillips


July 16, 1945. Detonation
Of the first nuclear Bomb,
A plutonium implosion device,
Was exploded in New Mexico,
On the Jornado de Muerto.
Such immense power.
Our world will never be the same.

J. Robert Oppenheimer recites
A line from the Bhagavad Gita; 
“Now I am become Death,
the destroyer of worlds.” Vishnu.

Is not the Past all Prologue?



August 6, 2020. Hiroshima.
75 yrs ago, the whitest flash
The world has ever seen,
City & chldren in flames,
Ashes on the doorsteps
& strict laws of radiation
Waiting to be obeyed.
Heat too hot to be imagined.
160,000 dead.
What scholars call History,
Ordinary people call Suffering.
What times have we lived thru.




Lao Tzu speaks to us:
Gravity is the root of grace.



I myself must be light-headed,
Thoughts containing more spin
Than gravity can contain.
Midnight. My head is spinning,
Fierce tales, pandemic thoughts:           
Refrigerator trucks,
Parked on side streets for months,
Crammed to overflowing.
Bring up the bodies.
White caps in oceans of imaginings
Flow in, flow out,
Entire cities crushed, flooded,
Families mortally wounded.
Some of the world is the world,
Some of it is us.



It must be midnight somewhere.
Objects in my livingroom
Take on lives of their own.
The photo of my 5 yr old sons
In their Superman costumes,
Red capes flying,
Truth, Justice, & the American way.
Tell me another one.
One son alive. One son dead.
Bring up the bodies.
       On the radio, Willie Nelson:
       “Nothing I Can Do About It.”



My wife’s Japanese doll
Dressed in a kimono dances.
The World’s bright Music
Takes me away from myself,
Our universe too
Pulses arpeggios of desires.
Do you not hear them?
Clusters of notes,
Scales of falling , Scales of rising,
Murmur of far away planets,
Followed by harmonic whispers.




My wife when she was 10
Lived in Japan
Where her father worked
For the State Department.
World War II
Was not far enough away.
Subways were filled
With maimed veterans,
Scarred soldiers, sailors.
Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi.
When my wife’s family
Went to the beach,
Japenese gathered around them
To stare at them:
Such pale blonde creatures.



What is the wind
Amid rhythmic change of seasons
On this planet singing now?
With so much gravity at stake,
Some worlds are filled
To the breaking point
Before they even come into being,
Some worlds are strange
Because they no longer exist,
Others are strange
Because absence of water.
Some private worlds are strange
Because of absence.




Winds pick up. Hurricane.
My mother & I,
Working by candlelight,
Are covering with brown paper,
Cut up grocery bags,
3 volumes of a dictionary
I had lugged home from college.
I own more dictionaries
Than I can possibly use.
Words escape me. So many
Persons I loved have escaped me:
Son by 2 A.M. morning.
Mother by candlelight.




Whether I wish for God or not,
There is a magician’s trick
Involving a box with a false bottom.
The universe is such a Pandora’s Box,
An immense collection
Of spinning gravities,
With a false bottom of Hope.



Earth, its citizens remind me
Of lungless salamanders
Absorbing oxygen thru their skin.
Not once concerning themselves
With residual radiation.
Entire islands of energy
Turn upon themselves,
Dramatic patterns
Shake us up & down,
Bells ringing, an 8
On the Richter scale,
Seismic shifts of many lives,
Black holes of shimmy,
Pluonium flares at the core.
Little Boy. Little Boy.




August 9, 1945. Nagasaki.
75 yrs ago, the whitest flash
The world has ever seen,
City & chldren in flames,
Ashes on the doorsteps,
Handfuls of radiating dust,
Pebbles on the gravestones.
The Emperor of Japan in 1945:
“The war situation has developed
Not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”
An explosion giving off
A temperature of 540,000 Farenheit.

80,000 to 120,000  dead.
Definitely a disadvantage.
165 nijū hibakusha,
Double explosion-affected people,
Persons who were bombed
In both Hiroshima & Nagasaki.



Does the universe have a center?  



Bring up the body.
With help from Leonard,
My father’s best friend,
& 4 others from the funeral home,
I removed my father’s coffin
In the Florida heat, humidity,
To carry it to the gravesite.
The coffin, a well carved box.
No false bottom on this one.
Just one more black hole
That will not shimmy.
Some deaths deeper than others.
Lower the body with ropes
Six feet down. 2 yards.
A handful of sand, pebbles,
My mother, my sisters,
Myself with fresh tears.
Private histories, Public histories
Shake us up & down,
Which shakes us to the core?
Years later, I return to this place.
My sister & I wander
For nearly a half hour
Under a scorching sun:
Just where was the old man buried?



The Quick and the Dead.
But what about the dying?
They are neither quick
Nor dead. The old saying:
There are the living
& the dead & those at sea.
Survivors gather
 At the edge of the ocean
 With its surge of savage waves.
 Tidal barons ruling the roost.
 Bonfires on the beach.
 A lone musician  strums a guitar,
 Whisper sings  Malvina Reynold’s
 Little boxes on the hillside
 Little boxes all the same.
 Nightmares. Survivors’ nightmares.
 Step into the box and disappear.


 Louis Phillips's most recent books are Sunlight Falling to the Lake (poems) and 4 (four stories, four plays, four poems), both published by World Audience Books and available from Amazon.

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