ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by J.R. Solonche


Someone bought a copy
of my Selected Poems
2002-2021 at Good Books
in Cornwall, New York, and
I cannot help but wonder
who it was. I would like to
think it was a woman, well-
educated, perhaps with a
doctorate, not in literature,
in biology or art history or 
better yet, in psychology, 
plain looking in her fifties, 
glasses, divorced or widowed, 
who went to the coffee shop 
next door, opened the book at 
random, smiled, and, for the first 
time in her life, wrote a poem, 
a poem about buying a book of
poetry, ten times better than this.



Her granddaughter couldn’t think
of the name of her grandmother’s
hairdo. “It’s from the 1940s. Is it
the quiff?” “No, don’t call it that.
Quiff means slut in British slang,”
I said to the screen while watching 
the video about Ruth Stone. “It’s a 
pompadour,” I said to Bianca as 
though she could hear me down
the years between us. Did she never
write a poem about it, about her hair, 
itself a poem standing and bowing over 
her forehead like a great red peony?
“Never mind, Bianca. It was really 
a Victory Wave, your grandmother’s
wonderful wave of victory,” I said
to the screen, waving goodbye.



I asked for Irish Handcuffs.
She never heard of it.
They almost never do.
Even in the Irish bars they almost never do.
I told her what it was.
A shot of Jameson in one hand, a Guiness in the other.
Does it matter which hand? she asked.
It may to some but not to me, I said.
Now that you know how to serve Irish Handcuffs, it won’t matter.
Nobody will ever ask for one ever again, I said.
She was a college student.
I asked her what she was studying.
To become a funeral director, she said.
Want another one? she asked.
Not today, I said.
I still have two years to go, she said.
Okay. Good to know. I’ll be back, I said.
And I’ll know Irish Handcuffs, she said.
And I’ll know who I want to embalm me, I said.
She laughed.
I didn’t.
But she had two years to go.
A lot can happen in two years.


Solonche's books forthcoming in 2024 include The Architect's House (Kelsay Books), An Aesthetic Toward Notes: On Poets & Poetry (Deerbrook Editions), God (Shanti Publishing).

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