ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by J.R. Solonche


She said the medication gave 
her a nightmare, the worst,
the most horrible nightmare
she ever had. She said she
should have read the small
print before taking it, but who
reads that tissue paper full of 
small print? Really now. Who 
does? She said the pharmacist 
should have stuck a warning label 
on the bottle: This may give you
nightmares, the worst, the most
horrible  you’ll ever have. I said
she should have asked him for the 
antidote, the drug that gives you 
good dreams. Anyway, what was
the nightmare? Oh, I’ve put it out 
of my mind, she said and hung up.



Today I pulled what
I thought was a weed
up from between two
paving stones, but after
pulling it up, I saw it
had a very small white
flower on its stem. I felt
bad, but is it my fault
that the flower was too
small to see against the
white paving stones? Is
it my fault that I live in
a town that forbids weeds?



I do not have a dog.
I never had a dog.
What boy never had a dog?
What teenager, what young man,
never mourned the loss of his best friend in the world?
I was that boy.
I was that teenager, that young man.
I am that old man.
I cannot say that “Death calls my dog by the wrong name.”
So I am grateful to you, Donald Revell.
I thank you for sharing your dog,
and I thank you for sharing your distinguished disdain for death.



I am driving a convertible
on the Boston trolley tracks
with my brother when it blocks
my way, the sign: WHO WILL?

I am late for my poetry class,
and all the students are already gone
except for Emily Dickinson
whose jackboot kicks me in the ass.

I’m on the Bronx train No. 4,
or is it on Air France to Paris?
In berets, the Bronx French curse 
because I stand in the door.

A beautiful (So beautiful!) Black podiatrist
examines my right foot. It is blue (So blue!)
and explodes into a blue (So blue!) mist
as she disappears from view.

The conductor with red (So red!) beard and red hair
asks for my train ticket.
As the train jerks backward back (So back!) to nowhere,
his hair turns into a tall black (So tall black!) hat.

The conductor suddenly takes sick.
I leap, swan (So swan!) dive from the balcony.
I stab my right hand with the stick.
It bleeds (So bleeds!) on the violas and the ‘celli

I’m driving on a mountain road,
which gets narrower and narrower
until it shrinks to nothing and disappears
into the rock of the mountainside.

I’m a doctor in a big hospital.
I have a stethoscope and wear a white coat.
On the speaker system, there’s a STAT.
Everyone runs there but me. I’m not real.

I’m asleep. I wake up. I fall asleep again.
It is morning, but there is no light.
It is morning, but it is night.
The sun and the moon are one.

I am in a kitchen with two sinks.
In one, I wash a spoon. My beautiful wife
in the other, washes a knife.
I look at her. I wonder what she thinks.

I’m in a classroom, in the first row.
At the desk sit a male and a female teacher.
One is a scowling Arthur Schopenhauer,
the other, a bare breasted Marilyn Monroe.


Nominated for the National Book Award and nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize, J.R. Solonche is the author of 35 books of poetry and coauthor of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.

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