ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Anita Lerek


Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
-W.H. Auden, “Sept 1, 1939”


Today there are no bleeding trees,
stars are still breathing. I steady the ladder
for you, Father, to climb higher.

I know you see another language—
of undivided sky. You touch the bones
holding up shivering walls, to hang up
a  new sign, to cover up old voices,
leather goods, Jewish store,

Then to the park, the five of us, scampering 
out into the light as if naked, no
camouflage. Why not!

The pathway is a  Polish finger pushing us
forward, baby carriage, picnic basket, 
violin, fishing rod, spirits.

The pond is filled with tree frogs croaking,
clasping one another, glistening rain
bodies that need to breed, floating lilies
of thousands of eggs. So many summer lives,
beginning. Our lives, nowhere, just here,
storing radiance for the coming frost.

Father, you splash water on us
and call out hallelujahs,
then dance us back . . .

to tomorrow’s shrieking heavens,
with rock and flesh formations
just seconds old. Our earth invaded,
horizon slaughtered. Sirens start
and stop . . . you are not there.

In cities of hate, trills rise from
undergrounds of marbled greens and browns.
Creatures lie with trees, biology stilled.

Lips mark time conversing with ponds:
after the freeze, let us back in.




The figure, white-robed, chest exposed
as if just coming out of the shower, is
my father, the poet Homer, in stone,
in god’s museum, old and always blind.  


I live in the land of divided sight: one half
receives—the other, rots. My left eye
waits, prepped and draped for the speculum
to be inserted, to initiate killing the killer,
and everything nearby. My left eye will be
sacrificed. Give up the diseased one, they say.
You always have the other.

Cover your left eye. Read out what you see on the right.


Eye opens to the naming of each shape.
Letters are leaves smaller, smaller,
swaying to my command.

Now cover up your right eye. Read out the letters with your left eye.

Migrained canvas,
pain clings to effort,
letters weep down



-I see nothing.         

Let’s try fingers. How many do you see with your left eye? 


Sight bitten in two. 20:20 vision for one side,
20:200 for the other.


I look up at your shuttered face. No letters
swarm about. You turn loss into a naming—
of how humans are intoxicated by fatal melodies,
how they are rammed by infidel waves,
maddened into forgetting who they are.

Father, prodigal eye, return me with the tide,  
write me, bind me to you, after the wreck,
to see something else.



Anita, don’t cry as you charge up to heaven to look for 
the book on the tip of your tongue; but really to dive
closer to the skin of strangers. Don’t be afraid to stick

in the throat of those around you, who think they 
know you. No one sees the weapons you lock in your bag. 
Whose fault is it you never learned to please?  

Don’t cry about the blocked planets settled
in your mouth. You tell me it hurts too much
to move—

that your right leg bridges ancestral wars,
wobbling, collapsing; the lulling of failure 
with my words; such stillness here.

Sorry I can’t help you anymore. Eagle lost in flight, 
I ask cliffs for directions.

I will never write again, hands withered from handling
the degradation of roses. 

Wake up, Anita. I must leave you now, and pack up our room:
my armchair, cough, beads, spells, your nods, the drowning words,

as flesh wrapped around fear and shame that I absorb
so you can make something new.

Finger the colours, the knife. It’s your turn. No need to please. 
Belonging grows with resistance. 


Anita Lerek lives with her archivist husband in Toronto, Canada. She has spent her adult life juggling business and the enchantment of her most faithful lover, her poetic muse. The visual arts, jazz, and social justice are life-long influences. Born abroad (Poland), she retains a sense of otherness.

She is a publishing late-bloomer. Her poems have appeared in  Verse-Virtual (June 2021), Poetry Super Highway, Poet of the Week (Feb 8-14 2021), Medium, Cry/Scream (Jan and Feb, 2021), Visual Verse (Jan, 2021), First Literary Review-East (Jan, 2021), Verse-Virtual (Oct, 2020), Ygdrasil (Sept, 2020), Persimmon Tree (Summer, 2015), and Split This Rock, Canadian Jewish News, Literary Supplements.

She is author of a chapbook of History and Being (2019), and co-founder of ChangeArtists, a start up online hub for quality poetry related to political engagement and social action.  

You can find her at and at


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