ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Louis Phillips


I am worn down,
Drip, drip, drip,
Water overflowing
From a bathtub
In an overhead apartment.
Days drift into nights,
Nights evolve into days.
Aye, there’s the rub.

Mtoto, “Child” in Swahili,
Died 73,000 yrs ago.
The 3 yr old
Was buried in a shroud,
Not far, either physically
Or in time, from
Where he was born.
1,095 days in our time,
His time too, I guess.
Calendars then?
Days named?
Did his parents grieve
With the depth of feeling
As we do now?
Has grief evolved
Into something
Mtoto’s tribe
Wd not recognize?  

Hell, even elephants sway,
Rocking back & forth
Acknowledging loss,
Trudging toward & away
From piles of ivory tusks,
Graveyards violated
This way & that.

Dogs of all shapes & sizes
Remain for days
At the side of a dead owner.

We sit down to dinner,
By the time dessert arrives,
Lives have changed,
Irrevocably. Tragedy
Is instant coffee drunk hot.
Grief eventually becomes
Drip, drip, drip.
No going back,
Unless out of nuts, bolts,
& AI  a Time Machine evolves.
Then I cd stand
With Mtoto’s parents.

Languages have grown,
New words
For new worlds,
A huge vocabulary
Of loss, more words
Than we know
What do with,
An entire repertoire
Of mourning rituals.
Look at my shoes:
How civilized I am!

They awake to bird song,
Animal chatter,
Crocodile bellow,
Brisk wind
Thru a savanna,
Elephants trumpeting.
I awake to sirens,
Firetrucks & ambulances,
Municipal police cars
Screeching toward
Victims in brownstones,
Babies in ashcans.

We are now face & face.
How shall we say
What needs to be said?
We hold out our hands,
Theirs like evening
Turning into night,
& heavy. Our hands hold
The weight
 Of all our tears.



There are gods
Who jump over fire
Until  their heads
Explode  like thunder.
Pity the Poor gods

Who die in subtle ways,
But have no souls.
For humans
The soul lingers
In our breathing.

That human-headed bird
The dead to the underworld.
What to do?

Sing, I guess,
& Jump with fire.



Is there
a less serious word
in the English language?

A philosopher
might travel
faster than the speed

of light
into some deep tunnel
of offhanded wisdom,

But there
At the end
Of his/hers/our train

 of thought:  


Author Louis Phillips' most recent publications are THE BOOK OF EPIGRAPHS and his latest book of poems --THE MUSIC OF LIGHT REGRET-- (World Audience Books), reviewed in this issue by R. Nirenberg.

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