ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Richard Weaver

Citizen Rat

has not missed a community meeting since birth
two years ago. In rat years he’s old in the tooth.
A survivor whose days are not worth counting.
Even so, he’s present this night, alert and informed,
still able to chew asphalt, wire, ancient hard woods,
and all things plastic. Truth be told, his preference
has always been blacktop over macadam. Entirely for
survival he reasons. Tonight’s agenda is thin soup poorly
salted. If there is a hint of flavor it is not local, meaning
not present. Still, he remains civic-minded, a rat who believes
in supporting those who too often fail to vote or write
blistering letters to the papers, and can’t be bothered
to put a simple sign in their concrete yard. In earlier times
he might have been labeled a yellow dog (rat) democrat
though he prefers to think of himself as independent
of fixed thoughts. Anything other than an ambassador
of the obvious. His votes are not dangling chads. Partially
gnawed purposes. Something considered for their prescience,
though on occasion dismissed as incomplete. Inconclusive.
He does make the effort. Always. Unlike those who traffic
in solipsism. Who’d deny him a voice without quorum or vote.


Inconstant Reader

sees the massive oak door swing open invitingly, and somehow knows
it is already tomorrow inside the house. The doorbell and brass knocker

still sleep. A house dog monitors the metronomic movement of its tail
back and forth across the heart wood pine floor. Pink tongue panting.

But reports no seismic literary activity. In the foyer, A vase of roses
has deadheaded itself, its red petals scattered in a welcoming pattern.

Looking more closely it is clear their message was intended for someone
with mild dyslexia, webbed toes, and a recently administered herbal colonic.
Dear OverReader, the implied you is not an apostrophic intended as you.
As Incontinent Reader’s eyes shift in survey, the winterized fireplace coughs out
a hairball made of a squirrel’s nest of leather shoes, a missing hamster carcass,
and the Travel section from last week’s Sunday New York Times. The flue has flown

away and into the chimney sweep’s dark arms, and together they have escaped
to the Big Upper Middle Land, aka Bahamas where they honeymoon in Bimini,

naked in their suite and genuflect knee-deep in a bathtub of hickory daiquiris.
Do you understand Dear Callipygous Reader, why you must wait outside?

Or at least move so that I might better see?


Clockwork Rat

powers across the kitchen floor, tail winding
and unwinding around the key to maintain itself

in the special light that only kitchens allow.
Its mouth opens and closes as its haunches

hunch and unhunch. Eyes cross and uncross,
flit left, then flirt right. All the while the tip

of its clockwork nose wrinkles and relaxes.
Noiselessly. As if gearless, or possessed

by the hideous key plunged unhealing in its back.
Clockwork Rat slows, sensing the sly presence

of Clockwork Cat, his rival for any food left behind
by Clockwork Man. Tightly wound, it springs,

its speed exiting distance and safely entering
the now closing clockwork hole. Home. Hungry,

mildly perturb, but freshly oiled and rust-free. The soft
ticking of its inner clock, white noise to its ticking ears.


The Ignorant lamp

remains in the dark, shaded about most things.
Fluorescent, incandescent, LED, black light, halogen,
mercury vapor, neon, and metal halide, to be precise.

Never bright, it’s dimwitted on the best days and stands
pedestal-like on a corner bedside table. Its worldview
is less than panoramic, but better than the rug’s view

or the ceiling fan’s dizzy height. Who knew Ignorant Lamp
was fearful of fire in all manifestations: butane lighters,
matches and flashlights, glow in the dark plastic worms,

and especially the light creeping out from under the bathroom
door. Its partner, Bedside Lamp, now deceased, a shattered victim
of a senseless pillow fight, always warned about what hid

behind the locked door, the door that never opened, but always
hinted it could, at any moment, allow its overwhelming sun
to burst forth and incinerate all: four-post bed, winged chair,
throw rug, hung art, and surviving darkened lamp.


A Mischief of rats

“He knows the rats are running; he just does not care to join the race”
- Steven Fromholz

are those who say the race run is ruined
by celebrity rats, politico rats and the like.
Who could possibly challenge Cluny the Scourge?
Or escape The Death of Rats? Even Ratbert,
aka XP-39C², who finds mazes amazing.
And then there’s Ritzo, the Brooklyn bred,
sewer bound street smart rat who famously
never carried the plague, not even once.
And Nigel Ratburn, a 4th grade teacher
who loves chocolate. And more chocolate.
Or Professor Ratigan, the Napoleon of Crime,
who denies his ratness while reviling mice.
There are those who might say The Number
Three Heavy Widdlers Squad, brothers in battle
with the Amazing Maurice who educated
and freed all rats, excepting those who ate
their own ears and tails, were nothing more
than piss and chips vinegar. They would be mistaken,
confusing form with function, and thereby
elevating the taxidermic Emile into unnatural
ethers. Not a world fit for the stuffed. Sentient
they would be, elevated to human levels, and often
above. Sadly Mischief Night has fallen from favor,
even in Ireland, Scotland, and Yorkshire where
once it was Halloween, a night for all widdlers.


The Campaign against gravity

begins now. Gravity has to go. Has to be gone. We must be rid of it
and our neighbors too. I’ll not be standing here and be told that I am
tangled up in strings. Whose crazy idea is that and why isn’t he

wearing a straitjacket in a rubber room? I’m telling you these theories
can kill you. So many and such maddening and crazed ideas tossed out
and off roofs like watermelons to make some art below. It ain’t right

and nothing good can come of it. In case you haven’t cottoned
to what I am saying let me say it hollow point blank clear:
Who made gravity into a law? It’s not in the Constitution. And isn’t

an inalienable right. So, why’s it a law and not just some dead man’s idea?
I ask you. Why? In most cases you can depend on so-called gravity.
Drunks’ll hit the ground more often than not, though there are a few

who float like clouds in the night sky. Not sure how they do it when
I can’t. But they can as I am witness. Who am I to argue with them?
They must have cut a secret deal with Mr. Gravity and I only admit

to wishing I was a balloon and could float in the face of Mr. So-called Gravity.
It has nothing to do, and I say this proudly, with my attraction to your mother,
my wife and companion of these many star-dusted years, the woman

I proudly married and buried. Whatever. You don’t ever ask her about you
know what, else she’ll rise right up outta the ground and slap you a new face.


The author hopes to one day once again volunteer with the Maryland Book Bank, CityLit, the Baltimore Book Festival, and was the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. His pubs: North American Review,crazyhorse, New England Review, Southern Quarterly,Free State Review, Loch Raven Review, & Poetry Magazine. He’s the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars (2005), performed 4 times to date. Recently his 130th {Ir}Rational Narrative, aka prose poem, was published. He was one of the founders and Poetry editor of the Black Warrior Review.

Return to Offcourse Index.