ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by David James



“Do you watch your parents kiss?”
“Yes, just to see what it’s gonna be like when I actually do it.”
                                                                                 Henry, 8 years-old

It’s such an odd act
of affection: pressing your mouth
against another mouth,
sometimes with aggression,
trying to eat the other,
swallow them whole,
suck them down into your belly
where they’ll explode inside you
and you’ll explode inside them
the little peck on the lips or cheek or forehead,
more perfunctory than anything,
like a caress on the shoulder,
a hand lightly tapping the upper back
the sudden grab of passion, taken by surprise,
almost forbidden, biting and pulling
on the lip until the tongues
wrestle the bodies onto the floor,
against any wall.

My grandson watches
and learns what he can, marking time,
but he’ll never imagine
how quickly his heart will leap
in his chest and sing, music echoing
through his arms and legs,
with that very first kiss.



It is my 68th spring in this country of doom.

The first six I don’t recall.
After that, each spring,
all 62 of them, blend together
into one messy season with fat robins,
steady rainfall, the tulips first
to bloom on the north side
of the house. The grass sucks
the green out of the air.
The trees grow light beards
made of small buds while sparrows
and wrens feud over the bird houses.

The wind tastes like a cold beer
sent over to me from old man winter
who sits at the bar, winking, downing
jello-shots like there’s no tomorrow.
And then spring crawls out of its hole,
squinting, swearing, picking up a clump
of mud, marking 68 on my forehead.
I stand out here, looking up to the heavens,
waiting for the storm to come

and wash me clean, God willing, for another year.


TIME FLIES [67 and counting]

In one week, I’m going to my fifty-year
high school reunion to see friends
I haven’t seen and don’t recognize anymore.

How did I get this frigging old?

Inside my head, I’m twenty-five or twenty-six
but then I glance in any mirror—
long red hair gone, wrinkles everywhere,
an old man staring back.

At this point, I can get depressed worrying about the end
or I can smile at that old guy and say cheers,
let’s make the best of it and celebrate the fact
that I can play golf, drive at night,
cook a mean steak out on the grill.

I can kiss my wife’s neck and send a chill
all the way down. Though it’s none of your business,
it’s true, we’re still able to rise and fall

on that fleshy frontier.



Standing alone, gazing out
at the wet world
as ships and boats
drift in and out
of the bay, coming ashore,
or not.

Pointing toward heaven
and hell, we let the wind and rain
swirl around, crashing
against us. Life is one
long walk up the stairs
and then back down again.
Speed has no value here.
Take your time
both ways.

At night,
the light burns on,
circling, looking for travelers,
beckoning, warning,
announcing, calling out,
I’m right here. Look at me, please.

Have you ever seen
two lighthouses



 Born and raised on the third coast, Michigan, David James has published seven books and has had more than thirty one-act plays produced throughout the country.

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