ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Sarah Carleton


While roadies tune guitars,
the man beams at us. “I took my kid
to a Dylan concert. He’ll never forget,”

he tells my son, then my husband, then me.
“And I’m not even drunk yet. See that guy over there?
His son did prescription drugs, killed himself.”

And the show begins. Dude lifts his hands
and throws beats back at the stage,
blocking my view, bald head nodding, Yes, yes, yes,

while his wife swings straight blond hair and jigs
like a clogger and the daughter sways.
When the blissed-out crowd sings along,

he shouts loudest of all,
holding his Hell no I ain’t happy sticker high.
Second set, a flailing man inserts himself between

the radiant family and me.
This guy cocks an elbow back and waves his hat
like he’s winding up for a baseball pitch,

nearly hitting my nose every time,
so I backstep deeper into the thicket of people,
eyes on the joy, spotlighting

the bass player crabbed over his instrument,
bucket bangs in his eyes, his secret
smile at getting each note right.


To Whoever Is in Charge

“We are not responsible for your losses,”
the sign at the front desk informs me.
But No Smoking plaques hang on every wall
and the eighth floor still reeks of pot.
The free breakfast is from six to nine
but they run out of fruit in the first ten minutes.
The buffet promises bold, strong coffee;
I’m staring at a cup of drizzle.
So how seriously should I take that sign?
There are losses I’d love to lay in your lap.
The headphones that work are missing,
I can’t find my left flip-flop,
I lost a whole month to a toilet stain and sorting
junk mail, and there’s a mandolin player
whose death was more than any of us can bear.
The concierge should do something about that.


Happy Freaking Earth Day

Yard waste is neither created nor destroyed,
so I pluck, shave, shove and displace it.
In Florida the green pushes forth all year long,
high and scrappy,

mown fescue and wild flowers
mulching back into mounds of dirt. Meanwhile
philodendron snakes up trees, wide leaves waving
like the ace, jack and entire conga line of spades.

Yank them, loop them, squash them in a trash bin
and send them off to a new home
but the mass always returns. Ferns, vines—
like dough behind a rolling pin
the stuff can relocate, but it’s never really gone.


Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, tutors English, plays the banjo, and makes her husband laugh in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Cider Press Review, Nimrod, Chattahoochee Review, Tar River Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, and New Ohio Review. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was recently published by Kelsay Books.


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