ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Martin H. Levinson

America the Dutiful

Bargain hunters running
   ’round the mall on a rainy
      Fourth of Good Buys  

shopping for men’s apparel,
   women’s apparel, furniture,
      shoes, chocolate, sports gear,

jewelry, household appliances,
   cell phones, novelty gifts bought
      and brought to the food court

where nutrition is done on
   the cheap and thoughts of
      the next sale are good reason

to not call mom
   or pay a visit to dad.




My upstairs neighbor
never says hello to me
when I see him on the
street or at the grocery
store but when we’re
riding on the elevator
in our building he always
asks me how I’m doing.


Hot, humid weather makes
many people uncomfortable
and seek air-conditioned rooms,
but I don’t mind being outside
when its warm and steamy 
as long as I’m not wearing
a polyester shirt or thinking
how we should have moved
from our apartment in the city
and bought that house on
Hartmann’s Farm Road
that we both liked
ten years ago.


When I talk to people about
politics they rarely say “I’m
not sure” or “I don’t know,”
which is something my cat
would never say because he
doesn’t speak English or watch
opinion shows on cable TV
whose guests claim to know
everything about everything
but clearly know nothing
about knowing.


My old barber was a
competent craftsman but the
new guy I’m seeing is a cut
above Monet with his small,
thin, yet visible brush strokes,
open composition, emphasis
on the accurate depiction of
the contours of my face, and
the inclusion of a head massage
and neck rub before the canvas
is completed.


I knew I would pay a price
when the large framed
photograph you took of the
begonias in our yard, which
was sitting atop my dresser,
fell and got chipped because I
forgot to ask you to remove it
when I opened a drawer that
contained fire but not forgiveness.


It’s not that you’re always
late that’s the problem, it’s
the possibility I will go crazy
if I don’t accept that fact.


Martin H. Levinson is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, PEN America; the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics, and a contributing editor to The Satirist. He has published nine books and numerous articles and poems. Website:

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