ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Martin Pedersen

My Deliberate Decline

No matter what you do it's bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad. Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

I keep going out to buy box cutters
to cut boxes to put in the recycling bin
I forget the dangerous box cutters and get cherries instead
then at home, I see the boxes in the
garage and eat my cherries
the box cutters are not really so important
next week I'll go out and try again
I have so much still to do
week after cluttered week

I hope I don't get a virus
or need an operation
that would suck, like when I broke
a bridge, I broke a dental bridge
in my mouth, that cost me a fortune

I got a book from the lending library
the public library where books are free
I checked it out and then returned it
without reading it, I don't know
if they can tell when you don't
do your duty

speaking of kids
I wish I hadn't had so many
can't eliminate them now
even if I could
but they seem to be watching me
waiting for my collapse
making the hard decisions
about who will handle my care
and how much it will cost.



My name is Holly Bush
actually, Holly Berry Bush
it's a man's name this time
in my tribe males do not get their true names
at birth but only on the death of their fathers
then looking about, the first thing that strikes the son
outdoors in the natural world
becomes his new
gift name.

Out to lunch on
veggie sandwiches with my brothers
a call from the nursing home
the guests gathered in the hall
giving who's-next looks
nurses off doing something else equally important
we went in one at a time
me first, it was

Dad looked like he had that morning
except that he wasn't breathing
face finally relaxed,
I said goodbye and touched his brow
then, in the parking lot, near the street, a holly bush:
the professional landscape architects had decided
its species and collocation -- stickery leaves
and red berries -- don't eat them,
they're poison.

I may have looked upwards or downwards
left or right, I cannot remember,
we, big men, did not speak
on the drive home
so that each could find
his own spirit name
along the numbered road,
outside the window
of the Dodge pickup.



        for Lawrence Ferlinghetti

We’re waiting
and getting a new chance
          Every new day
the sun rises to say
Come on, you can do it
Start over, start anew
          Yesterday the sun died for you and your sins
only to be reborn
          As every baby in every mangy manger
of shit and blood and goo and stink
          Screams of pain
          Respect and gratitude
Translate into your holy language
the sub-text of song
sweet as a mountain spring
near the top
          Down, I have been down
Looking for my second chance
Not knowing that it might have come and gone
          My sunny second coming
Lost many times during the search.
          Tedious reincarnation with every communion
          Want to commune with me, sweetie?
Give that famous shelter from the storm I like so much
called The Rapture.
          Stop searching, man, give yourself
to your own birth
today and again
the next today
          Every step of the whatever way
Stop waiting
          You are
          You are reborn
          You are the Buddha, Christ
the King
Now make a religion, fool
          And believe in it.


E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived for over forty years in eastern Sicily, where he taught English at the local university. His poetry appeared most recently in San Antonio Review, Danse Macabre, Neologism, Quail Bell Magazine, and California Quarterly, among others. Martin is an alumnus of the Community of Writers. He has published two collections of haiku, Bitter Pills and Smart Pills, and a chapbook, Exile's Choice, from Kelsay Books.

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