ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Two Poems by Sarah Carleton

Banjo Lesson

We multitask before the flat screen,
me frailing with half a brain, my husband training
his right hand to have a mind of its own

as babbled sitcom quips bump into notes
and a laugh track stomps our dueling versions
of the tune, disguising 

any gaffs and gulps but also canceling
the bubble-and-plink, and when he stops to ask
when he should drop thumb, I say

just keep playing through the bumbling stage
and youll emerge at muted ad breaks 
a bit better.



Every day I feel more Victorian—donning long dresses,
pouring tea, stuffing each room with trinkets.

I picnic in cemeteries and knit lace shawls
and carry volumes of poetry.

When politicians howl like a pack of dogs and internet
trolls don’t let a lady get a word in edgewise,

I still my crinoline and give them
the hard stare of the civilized.

You who know me as an off-the-wall spirit who dances
in the kitchen, repeats rude jokes

and believes women should not be corseted
might scratch your heads,

not realizing I love the flavor of contradiction
on my tongue, spicy and tart.


Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo, and knits obsessively in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, Cider Press Review, The Wild Word, Valparaiso, As It Ought to Be, and New Ohio Review. Sarah’s poems have received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was published in 2020 by Kelsay Books.

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