ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Ruth Bavetta

Four Scenes


Something comes in the dark to dig.
Each dawn the grass is overturned
in clumsy clumps. At the edge
of morning grey, I turn lumps of turf
to fill the wounds. Come night
the animals return.



Wind slices palm fronds,
splitting the sky, lifting shingles
to make way for rainwater edged
with knives. I mop and sweep,
and still the flood arrives.



Inside the garage the air is dim as dirt.
The mail slit vomits envelopes
onto the cold floor. Bank statements,
bills, letters of condolence, all crimes
of commission clustered around
the rim of duty.



The kitchen floor is sticky
with a week of spills. Cliffs
of laundry grow by the day.
The oven leaks, the toilet
speaks in gurgles. The postman
whistles as he makes his rounds.


Behind the Glass

Because my windows are double-paned
I do not hear the noise of the freeway
below my house. I do not hear the Jeeps,
Peterbilts or Amerigas tankers,
the Volkswagens, Volvos and Fords.

I do not hear the neighbor’s brindle boxer
barking, barking, barking, although
others have complained about it.

Every weekday morning those who live up the hill
drive past my house, heading for work, the market,
the hairdressers or, in one case, to Surfer’s Point.
They are as ghosts to me.

I hear my fingers clicking on the keyboard.
I hear the refrigerator kicking on. I hear my slippers
scuffle along the floor as I walk
to the kitchen to put the coffee on. This summer

I will hear the hum of my new air conditioning
system, the one I wished we’d had
that scorching summer when my husband lay dying
in his bed by the western window.

But I do not hear the mocking bird outside
in the magnolia, singing its heart out
for want of love.



Last night while I slept
the boy I did not marry came to me. 
It’s been three score and five he whispered,
remember how we learned the geometry
of love. What I remembered was that love
did not survive the trigonometry of three.

The young man I irrationally married,
came from his life in base 2 of a house
I never figured. I promise I’ll be square,
he said. I promise this time I’ll tell you the sum
of where I am. I let the doorbell ring to infinity.

The middle-aged man I finally married
was a prime number who came with three,
which added to my two totaled a family that equaled
43 years of congruence before he was subtracted
and I became minus one.
Oh, the radius of long division,
the circumcircle of a boat at sea.


The garbage

cans zeroed out, the washer
filled to the sum of my ability,

the ivy minus its weeds. The distance
between the street and my muddy feet

on the mat equals the diameter
of the disapproval on his face

as he sees me reflected behind him
on the TV screen. What took me so long?

What about his lunch, and where
do I keep the spoons?

Author Ruth Bavetta’s poems have appeared in North American Review, Nimrod, Rattle, Slant, American Journal of Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. She likes the light on November afternoons, the music of Stravinsky, the smell of the ocean. She hates pretense, fundamentalism and sauerkraut.

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