ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Douglas Cole

Only a Few Birds, the Troubled Ones,
Speak to the Darkening Roof of the Earth

This wooded island is theater,
yet I hear your dinner bell
see shadow patrons lined up
on the porch of the Grand Hotel.

In the ether book
growing fatter by the breath,
lifetimes, chapters, illustrations,
and an ever-expanding index.

Sunburst opening then gone,
black holes sucking up oxygen,
photogravure versions of vacations,
and detailed studies of your gait
like a horse galloping off the ground.

You and I and all this
water under the bridge,
we are welcome at last
at the table of light,
cups of mercurial wine,
stories of time on earth
that might be lies.


Circling Soul

This room is a cloud. You're welcome to join me
in overlook, peering down-tunnel through the world's eye,
that come-hither wave that's been traveling since birth
to crest at your brow like a lover come in for a midnight kiss.

And all that body surfing and beery games of pool
in the alfresco cafe by the ocean give us the sea legs
to stride over the moons repeating their images
in a black hole’s puckered and retreating face,
only to show up again as a server with napkin draped
over forearm and smile with a glint of gold tooth.

I thought we moved on, you say in Patagonian or Esperanto,
with a chill of bone-splitting, the light that wants to dance.
Is that too dense, too much dream logic and switching places,
particles in love with ether, clown shot out of a cannon,
star saying, look at me! diving into the green earth
like children in a schoolyard among the lethal games,
spinning dizzy into laughing leaping amazement
until the bell rings, play over, though not so sinister?

Simply, the waves that have traveled since birth boil up
to your dream body in the surf as we rise and walk out
along eternity’s shore, say with a wink of knowing
that this moment exploding against the sky’s retina
is becoming the most glorious day you can imagine.


Don't Empty Houses Ring?

This is the house I was born dead of winter.
A blind man lives here now. I spy on him.
I sneak in through an open window to see one
room I remember—like the cave of entry,
walls that still blush with the burning door
you can't see if you look—the wide tree rings.

We have scars, that's one way of saying time,
and we toss off lives like worn-thin socks.
The blind man knows I'm here but won't call the cops,
every door and window locked, think he's crazy,
ask, are you seeing ghosts? You could call me that.
I move through without even disturbing the frost,
leave not one footprint in snow dead of winter.

We come and go, and the house glows in a vacant lot,
and that should tell you something—empty space is
full of mysterious shed lives, disposable faces,
strangers who know things as if they read tree rings,
like Talmudic scholars in the woods, coming down
a flight of invisible stairs, the glow of heaven still
on their shoulders, as they show you words of fire.


Möbius Thought

Tree roots in a basement deep,
we walk between two worlds:
what we see above our feet
and what goes on below unseen;
and what goes on unseen below
is what goes on above our feet
in a basement full of tree roots
in two worlds we walk between.


Douglas Cole published six poetry collections and the novel The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. His work has been anthologized in Best New Writing (Hopewell Publications), Bully Anthology (Kentucky Stories Press) and Coming Off The Line (Main Street Rag Publishing). He is a regular contributor to Mythaxis, providing essays and interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band). He also writes a monthly piece called “Trading Fours” for Jerry Jazz Musician and was recently named the editor for “American Poetry” in Read Carpet, an international, multi-lingual journal from Columbia. In addition to the American Fiction Award, he was awarded the Leslie Hunt Memorial prize in poetry, the Editors’ Choice Award for fiction by RiverSedge, and has been nominated three time for a Pushcart and seven times for Best of the Net. He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. His website is

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