ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Claire Scott


I didn’t ask to be born
I didn’t ask King Minos to deceive Poseidon
I didn’t ask him to sacrifice a different bull
sparing the snow-white one Poseidon sent
I didn’t ask for Poseidon’s revenge
making my mother fall in lust with the bull
I didn’t ask to be born

They called me an unnatural offspring, a beast, a brute
a freak, a ferocious fiend, a monstrosity, a savage
sorry, I will shut the thesaurus and continue my story
I was born with a horned head like my father’s
and the body of a burly man
they shut me up in a windowless labyrinth
so no one would witness the disgrace

Can you imagine never seeing the sun rise or the moon shine
can you imagine the feeling of forever famine
I could smell the stews of chickpeas and olives
I could hear citizens laughing as they sloshed amber ale
they made me wait seven years to eat
the fourteen youths from Athens, noble boys and girls
innocent, fearful, frightened, frozen, tearful,

Bawling and blubbering, here I go again, so sorry
my thesaurus dog-eared, no WiFi in this hellhole
only acrostics and crossword puzzles
I invent in my antlered brain
                  the word for dishonor
                  the word for abandoned
I was starving, tell me, what was I to do

The third time a boy came alone
auburn curls, bronze eyes, too beautiful to eat
even though I was rattle-boned
I saw the red thread and knew he would find his way back
as I never would, no Ariadne for a degenerate beast
I let him run his sword through my chest
I didn’t ask to be born



I loved the orderly procession
of stamps stepping shoulder to shoulder
across the page. I took the green stamps
from my mother’s purse when she came home
from the A&P. She showed no interest, wobbled
to her room slugging a bottle of Jim Beam, leaving
groceries on the counter. Melting ice cream
I spooned from the container.
Shredded wheat I fed to the dog. I loved
pulling the stamps apart, licking their little backs
and pasting them into the pint-sized booklets.
I couldn’t wait to finish a few books and race to the store
to pick out a prize: a set of six wine glasses, a Zippo lighter,
a pink ashtray. It didn’t matter. It seemed like magic.

I wouldn’t mind spending some time each day
with familiar sheets of green stamps
and a booklet picturing a cheery family of four.
No alcohol in sight. No sharp objects or vials of pills.
The comfort of always fifty squares on a page,
never forty-nine or sixty-two.
A meditative practice like the sand mandalas
of Buddhist monks sending healing,
peace and purification into this worn
and weltered world. I could do that.
And  maybe I could trade some stamps
for a Swank Key Ring with a nail clipper
or a Bathtub Tray with a back scrubber.
No credit card needed. Magic.



I pick you up      my white-haired woman
                  creased and milkless
                                    & toss you            far into the future
where you will be spared
                  rage        & resignation
the slow strangle of depression
                  & unbounded bottles of booze
I bend down to gentle you           higher
                  to make sure      you land at least
                                    ten years away

Do you remember drawing hearts on our notebooks
with the initials of our latest love/practicing kissing
pillows so we would be sure to know/baby oil summers
on bikinied beaches/applications to medical school/
dreams of a Noble Prize/for curing narcolepsy/
years slid past picked clean of purpose/ the world
swaying/illegible/steeped in remorse

Or should I put you         in a witness
           protection program             to save you
from days of       not eating             not caring
                  if your bones glow in the dark
nights of                pills for wingless dreams
                  swallowed by oblivion
I touch your cheek           delicate as fairy floss
                  & give you           several thousand dollars
to start again     to begin a new life
                  without the cold-boned
                                    burden of me


            Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and  Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.   


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