ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Steven M. Smith

If Only the Late Amy Winehouse Had Been Assigned
            a Competent Guardian Angel

            It’s June 18, 2011.  I can see Mr. Fred Rogers descending,
            his angelic way in the neighborhood needed on Earth. 
            He uses his immaculate wings to part
            the smoky tunnel of hostile stage lights
            at Amy’s concert in Belgrade
            and then lovingly drapes his red cardigan over
            her trembling shoulders—and moments later
            her sobriety does an encore.  She stops
            stammering and slurring and stumbling.  
            The battering boos begin to fade.
            The rehab of cheers returns!
            Amy adjusts her fallen
            beehive and then folds both
            hands around the mic. 
            The fog in her hazel eyes lifts. 
            She gets her stage legs
            and begins to sing
            her cover of


Finding My Voice

            mulling over finding my voice as a young poet

When I find my voice is there a chance
I will squander it, blow it, lose it
like the huge lottery winners often do
and deflate into bankruptcy and defeat, become
another star in a documentary about dunderheads?
Do I explore the world to find it? Is it submerged with Atlantis?
Is it stashed under a sacrificial slab at a Mayan temple?
Should I be on horseback and retrace
Coronado’s trail to the Seven Cities of Gold?
Is it treading water along the Cape of Good Hope?
Is it frozen between the teeth of a panting
Yeti peering from a Himalayan cave?
God forbid aliens do exist and it’s humming along
at a googolplex light years per hour writing
“Surrender” with a cosmic vapor trail between galaxies.
Then what do I do?
It seems like a glacial epoch has come and gone.
So, when do I get desperate?
When do I pull to the shoulder of the highway
and move the entrails of roadkill?
When do I go back to that attic apartment
and confront the paranormal growl
that made my bowels beat into my Levi’s?
When do I return to the woods of my childhood home
and look for the mayonnaise jar
with the Mercury dime and newspaper clippings I
buried the day Neil Armstrong skipped across the moon?
Just now a housefly zipped itself up by my right ear.
Where is it?


Steven M. Smith is the author of the poetry collection Strongman Contest (Kelsay Books, 2021). His poems have appeared in Offcourse, The American Journal of Poetry, Aji, The Worcester Review, Rattle, Better Than Starbucks, The Big Windows Review, Book of Matches, and Mudfish. He recently retired from the State University of New York at Oswego, where he worked as the Writing Center director. He lives in Liverpool, New York.

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