ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Peter Mladinic

At the Rainbow

The invisible man plants a kiss on the forehead
of absence.
Anne Evelyn Stewart can’t recall
that kiss, or the name of her sister Jeanne.
“Two eggs over easy and dry rye toast,”
Jeanne tells the server.
Anne looks out a window at a traffic light
on Hargrove Road.
Seated nearer the window
she notices the chrome Harley
parked beside a silver Kia SUV.
Her eyes go to the register near the Rainbow’s
front door.
A woman two booths away lifts a mug
that has a rainbow logo:
a green, yellow, orange arc on its side.
She lowers the mug.  Her sandy hair
is short and neat.
Her blue tank-top says Surfing.  The sugar
on Anne’s French toast looks like a first
snowfall.  Jeanne gets up to let Anne out
out of the booth.  Princess Snowfall
is summer fall said fast,
Anne thinks as she goes to the Ladies.
“What makes you think I’m not okay?  she
says aloud to herself.
In the stall a crude arrow below the name
Joey etched s if by a pin
Mars one wall.  The door latch is silver
and locked.  Anne has no words for door
and latch.
She sits there, wanting out,
not knowing how.



Brush with Colgate,
Colgate’s gardol sounds slick.
What it is, sodium.
As hefty palm fronds sway in the sky
a net divides players.
One lifts a racquet and serves a ball
that bounces off an invisible shield.
It never gets to the net’s other side.
Gardol guards all.
It shields our teeth from decay
and us from harm.
It acts in our lives like a sheet of fiberglass
only we don’t lug it around.
Gardol guards us like the Diety.
God isn’t fiberglass or sodium.
Invisible, intangible
God is the whirl of wind in the palms
above the court 
in the 1958 commercial 
for Colgate’s dental cream.
A man in whites in the foreground 
says Brush with Colgate.
What is God?
Not the wind but a shield
more than sodium, fiberglass.
The speaker from back then 
is in God’s arms 
or ashes or food for worms.


The Animals 

I gave each dog but her a bone.  
Even though she’s dead 14 months
I still see disbelief, sorrow in her eyes, 
a Catahoula 
not by nature affectionate. 
Now I have a dog that slept at my side 
then suddenly found a big pillow 
in a room other than mine. 
He teaches me I’m alone,
an ongoing lesson, it’s okay being alone,
A lesson my mother used to teach, 
and, I assume, your mother taught you 
because she chose to. 
Outside a pavilion balloons floated 
in the sky an hour 
after the service for your mom. 
I’m with animals, and alone.
I’m okay.  That Saturday I denied Lori
the Catahoula a treat I wasn’t.  
Days like that may come again. 
But what my mom taught me and what 
I think your mom taught 
is continual.  Now they’re not here,
our mothers, the animals teach us.

Peter Mladinic’s fourth book of poems, Knives on a Table is available from Better Than Starbucks Publications.
An animal rights advocate, he lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

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