ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Robert Kinerk

A Picture of My Former Husband with Our Dead Cat

Of course the cat wasn’t dead when the picture was taken.
She was still so frisky she’d jump up on the piano bench to listen to me play.
The day we had to put her down she seemed to know.
She went out to the driveway, which she hadn’t done for quite a while,
and found a tarmac patch the sun had warmed.
She sat there a long time looking around at her world,
which was the neighbors’ houses and backyard trees,
until I helped her into her carrier and we set off for the vet’s.

My husband didn’t sit out in the driveway.
He told me on a winter night I didn’t love him anymore.
That same night he moved into what we called the spare room
but which he’d been using as his office.
He slept there till he finally moved away,

so I never had the chance to take him to the vet’s
and hold him in my arms and whisper in his ear
that this wouldn’t hurt a bit and I was going to be right there
while the vet prepared the poisoned needle
she would poke into his leg.


Russell Lee Photo: Boys and Girls, Caldwell, Idaho, 1941

Two boys as healthy as stoats,
one draped against his buddy’s back,
both mutely gazing at two girls
the same age they are. Teens.

Oh love. Oh awkwardness.
Oh dumbstruck American prairie
beating like a human heart
big enough for a whole continent.


Paul’s Funeral

I polish my shoes for the funeral
And find, on the tan city map
With its creases beginning to tear,
The corner where St. Edmond’s is,
Where, tomorrow, we will bear
The body of our friend, poor Paul.

St Snap, St. Snap is on the map.
His dinner crumbs fall on his lap.
Where, tomorrow, we will hear
The stately organ rendering
The hymn that brings a tear,
How Great Thou Art.
While a clever priest
Bromides us all.

St. Grim, St. Grim. He hears the hymn.
He’s long. He’s fair. He’s bright. He’s slim. 
A nephew with a blackened eye,
Wearing a suit far too blue,
Will take the widow’s elbow
And guide her to her pew
For fear that she might fall
And so she shall.
And so she shall.

St. Fear, St. Fear is with us here.
St. Grace, St. Grace does not appear.
She’s reading with her burning eye
The names of those who ought to die.
The names of those who ought to die.
The names of those who ought to die.


Robert Kinerk writes fiction, plays, and poetry. His most recent publication is ‘Tales from the Territory: Stories of Southeast Alaska.’ He and his wife Anne live in Cambridge MA.

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