ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Hoyt Rogers


Lepidopterous Mirage

Today we stalk the brightest, flimsiest wings,
in unkempt meadows and ravines that seethe

with butterflies: the flame, coolly scorching
bush after bush; the orange tip, overbrushed

with marmalade; the doris, a tinier doris
limned on her back; the cydno, stamped

with cobalt and white; the clipper, her snowdrops
dissolving into mauve; the cattleheart, a midnight

of starless crepe; the smalt-blue morpho, embroidered
black and white; the swallowtail’s eldritch tribal mask;

circling them through stippled, sunstruck hours,
we never tire of the hairstreaks, skippers, satyrs,

parnassians, and wood-nymphs; the fritillaries,
sulphurs, brushfoots, crackers, zebras, calistos,

and heliconians; the buckeyes, admirals,
peacocks, julias, and metalmarks—such

is the brittle heartbreak
of time’s extravagance,

watching them swirl and flitter
all morning, candescent leaves

of velvet patchwork,
only to mate and die.



The waves have churned
the milk conch to a lump;
though they’ve spared
the bluish tiger-lucine,
a partridge-portly tun,
a canary-yellow lima,
and a vivid tellin’s
comic-strip dawn.
They’ve also berthed
a ribbed ark beside
a cross-barred venus—
as tortuous as love—
and saved a pen shell’s
nubby pinions of glass.

Does this measled cowrie
whisper an alarm?
Does this apple murex
tinkle a leper’s bell?
Blood-flecks stipple
shattered coral bones:
tiny kisses of death
on clavicles, femurs,
and tumbled to shore.
Spotty, veiled cadavers,
the cowrie and murex 
join them on the slab.
Half-buried in the sand,
a trident’s trumpet gags
on the same pimply pall.

The only summons
to a second coming
blares from a trumpet
at the beach’s far end:
still whole, still aglow,
its mottled white
and umber sheen
like a promise—
its zebra-lipped
mouth open wide
to whoop a reply.


Ichthyic Mirage

Daisies, stemmed whitecaps dot the blue green
hollows, the swaying hillocks where we plunge

into this underworld of buoyant lepidoptera,
the honeycombed reef, the numinous haunts

of butterflyfish: freediving low, we sidle
past the foureye’s specs, the yellow rims

of spotfins, or a banded’s silver coins;
shredded rainbows tack beside us too,

the Quattrocento wings of angelfish: a queen
with aqua flanks and a cadmium tail, her lips

electric blue, the French with banana-peel scales,
grated and shellacked, or a grey with her daffodil

pectoral and clipped square tail; the ravishing
rock-beauty, that diptych of saffron and navy,

sometimes poses for his close-up, backed
by numberless tangs that riff their medley

of blues; and rescinding his inglorious name,
the striped grunt unzips a gold-leaf underlay;

the luminaries of the horde, the bluehead,
basslet, and wrasse, angle off and iridesce

like prisms on the move, while swimming in schools,
lesser lights weave sinuous tapestries—salmon-pink,

sepia, or green-mahogany: billowing shutters
of doctorfish, surgeonfish, damselfish, chubs;

of goatfish, sergeant majors, parrotfish,
trumpetfish; once in a wraithlike moon,

we conjure up a nonexistent lunafish,
spooked by a puckish harlequin bass;

though luna’s not a lonely ghost... blanched
by a sea change, corals into bones are made:

every tempest disgorges from ocean graves
the fingers, wrists of elkhorns, pillars, stars,

tubes, staghorns, tables, ossified brains,
spewing their skeletons down the shore;  

here below, an infuriated moray rightly protrudes
his head, a great barracuda hurtles like a warning  

through the startled, liquid sky; but for now
the body’s torso is intact, the polyps drowse

in their timeless daydreams,
nibbled by barnacles, crabs;

breathing in and out,
in and out, they filter

wayward currents
and migrant tides:

a parallel island,
sunken and still.


Hoyt Rogers is a poet, writer, and translator. He translates from the French, German, Italian, and Spanish; he is known for his English versions of Bonnefoy, du Bouchet, and Borges. He has published many books; he has contributed poetry, fiction, essays, and translations to a wide variety of periodicals. His edition of Yves Bonnefoy’s Rome, 1630 received the 2021 Translation Prize from the French-American Foundation. His forthcoming works include a poetry collection, Thresholds (MadHat Press), the novel Sailing to Noon (book one of The Caribbean Trilogy), and a translation of Bonnefoy’s The Wandering Life (Seagull Books). For more information, please visit his website

Return to Offcourse Index.