ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Don Narkevic

Sharp as a Pencil

the girl who sat to my right
in fourth grade, who I liked
to cheat off on history tests,
her hairy arm trying to hide
the answers, like 1620,
Tecumseh, Gettysburg.
She never used an eraser.
Polio turned her into a scarecrow
stuffed with useless facts,
the nun assigning me to help
with her leg braces,
metal and leather straps,
black and white saddle shoes,
what she called them,
like she was ever going to ride a horse,
but when she finished her tests,
she never turned the paper over
like we were supposed to,
just placed her pencil in the groove,
folded her hairy arms in front,
and I saw the Monroe Doctrine,
Millard Fillmore, Manifest Destiny.

One day, as I stared at her empty seat,
kids talked about that girl,
Susan, trying to outrun a ball
rolling across Duss Avenue,
how the car stopped
after knocking her out
of her leg braces
and those shoes I tied a thousand times.
That year no one sat in her seat,
but I sharpened her pencil.
I did that for her, too,
without being told.


At 15 I Never Used the Word Banal

In the lexicon of a fifteen-year-old,
banal did not exist,
my vocabulary boiling over
with words like wet dream,
Ivanhoe, space, shit, words
like that, me out of favor
with Dad because
I don’t know why
perhaps because my Saxon friends
irritated his sense of propriety,
allegiance to the country
I guess
the America I would fight for
in the coming years
where my Saxon friends died
in the Vietnam Crusades and I
returned guilty of the life sentence
I would lead without them
where wet dreams dried up
me marrying and four kids who fought
for my favor, boys I could not control
I don’t know why
a bunch of Normans plundering
like a bunch of Normans
taking my youth in their hands
as they scattered like a shotgun
my wife following
to a neutral corner of Wyoming
and I remain to talk it out
with a therapist
with a crumpled press hat
from her father on the desk
along with a teeth-marked pencil
how she introduced me to the banal
how it rose like Lazarus
who thought life ended
but how he had to live all over again
all over again.


Buckhannon, WV. MFA National University. Current work appears in Literary Yard, Agape, and New Verse News. In Spring 2022, Main Street Rag published a novella of poetry entitled, After the Lynching.

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