ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Jeff Shalom

Border Crossing

Alvaro Enciso buries his 500th hand-crafted cross at mile 19
on a dark ash January morning in the Sonoran Desert
at GPS coordinates confirmed by the Pima County Medical Examiner
as the final resting place of somebody’s American dream.

Scraping together bright paper, tin cans, and portions of plastic
once stuffed into ragged jean pockets of hiders and seekers from far off lands
Alvaro Enciso would make more if he had the time.
One for each set of remains.

Scattered raspberry and grape crosses, sapphire and blood
secrets out in the open,
draped with rosaries and painted rocks for all to see-
become markered X’s on his map of the howling sand.

Alvaro Enciso ends the ceremony reciting
Pedro Acosta, age 17, crossed on August 18th, 2020, and died from dehydration.

He lights a candle, says his prayers, and turns his shovel over
to use as a walking stick.
The Sentinel editorials scream about too many migrant crosses.
Alvaro Enciso agrees.


After the Game

-Inspired by Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Do you remember Casey? I asked my son that day
you know, the hulking man from Mudville who struck out in dismay?
Well, there’s a sequel to the story that isn’t taught in schools
where they still remember Casey as a synonym for mule.

It’s ok to laugh son, lie down, I’ll tell the story
of how Casey turned himself around pursuing lasting glory.
Sure Blake and Flynn had moments, but their jobs were both cut short
while Casey blood, sweat, teared his way to dominate the sport.

Blake ate jelly doughnuts and Flynn ate frosted flakes
Casey changed his diet because he understood the stakes.
He drank his weight in water and took his dose of C
he finished all his homework and didn’t watch tv.

He listened to his coaches and put in all the work
he made up with his sister even when a jerk.
But the most important things he did when things were going bad
were to breathe deep, smile, and listen to his dad.

I love you, son, please know, I love to watch you play
Casey’s dad was there for him. I’m here for you today.
We all strike out sometimes my boy. It’s just part of the game.
No matter when it happens, I’ll love you just the same.


Author Jeff Shalom graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor concentration from The Writing Seminars program. He is an owner and Vice President of a steel trading company. He lives in Upper Nyack, New York with his wife Anna, and three sons. 

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