ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by John Loughlin


I saw away at the very branch I straddle, whistling.

With a cordless power drill, drill holes
Into the lifeboat that could whisk me to land.

I down a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
At my AA meeting to wash down
The bottle I drank on the way over.

Jam a fork into the plugged-in toaster
To retrieve a piece of stubborn toast.

Peer over the lip of the volcano, farther
And farther, to get a closer look,
Something post-worthy on Instagram.

Scuba diving, taunt the moray eels
In their coral hidey holes.

Have unprotected sex with many faunae.

Accept any hard drugs that are offered at parties
Where people dress up in angel or devil costumes.

Follow the storm chasers
Into the fray at top speed
In my underwear and goggles.

Walk beside the railroad tracks
With my head so far in the clouds,
It makes the other astronauts jealous.
Unzipper my chest to the world
And let its famous circus of sadness in.
Its poorly treated pachyderms.
Its codependent lion tamer act.
Its clowns, barely patched together
By a litany of prescription pills
And undying love of the art.

Shove my heart into a blender, push play.



Tucked back in the corner, next to
A miscellany of yellowed receipts,
Friable rubber bands, golf tees, wine corks,
Mis en Bouteille au Chatueau, half a yo-yo—

A black barbershop comb sugared with dandruff.


           —with apologies to Harold Ramis

A California redwood falling
Onto a Honda Accord
That’s driving on Highway 199,
Fleetwood Mac on the radio.
A mild dog bite ignored that
Turns a seasick mermaid color.
Vending machines outperform
Sharks when it comes to taking
More of us out of the picture.
Molten gold poured down
An enemy’s throat. A toothpick
Inhaled sideways in the larynx.
Bee sting while playing golf.
Twenty-four celebrants annually
From liberated champagne corks;
Another one hundred fifty on average
From gravity and rogue coconuts.
A parachute that breaks its promise.
Freak woodchipper mishap.
A single peanut gone undetected.
Six days without water on the lips.
Falling off a cliff while looking
For a place to jump. Or better yet,
Going out like the Stoic philosopher
Chrysippus, who laughed himself
To heaven watching a donkey eat figs.
To say nothing of those last words,
Such as Hopkin’s, his I am happy,
So happy, I loved my life, which unfurls
Like a yellow umbrella. Or Steve Jobs
Repeating oh, wow, slowly, three times.
Mind blown. Or the very British
Erskine Childers to his executioners,
As they aimed their guns, Take a step
Forward, lads. It will be easier that way.
Or Tallulah Bankhead, who won
The internet of her day with her
Codeine (pause), bourbon. Men on ladders.


John Loughlin earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has worked in the tech industry the last twenty years. He lives in a northwest suburb of Chicago with his wife and daughter. Poems of his have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Copper Nickel, Forklift, Ohio, Phoebe, Ploughshares, Sonora Review, and other journals. Future work will be appearing in Rhino.

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