ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Claire Scott


Dizzed drunk again.
Wednesday noon. Saint Paul’s basement.
Hello my name is etc. etc.
The room stinks of Lysol and stale cigarettes.
The wastebaskets overflow with pink-kissed
coffee cups and crumpled Kleenex. Off in a corner
are wood statues of a man and a woman.
The woman is holding a small baby.
Sitting in the back on a plastic chair, sipping black coffee
laced with cognac, my feet up on the chair
in front of me, kicking it rhythmically to annoy Richard,
whose preferred drink is Havana Club Rum,
which he tucks in his backpack as Mr. Moreno
turns away to restock the beer.
But here’s the thing.
Richard smells and speaks only Spanish.
I think he is gay.
I continue sipping from my paper cup.
Sara, a drama queen with orange hair, is sobbing
that she left her five kids alone last night
to buy a pint of bourbon which she surely
deserved after another impossible
day at the Amazon Fulfillment Center
where you can’t wear a hoodie or carry a cell phone
and her boss caught her smoking in the Ladies,
but she needed a break for god’s sake, her wrists aching
her back breaking, her hands shaking again.
Her kids piled in the living room with pilfered cigarettes
and the couch caught fire. Blah, blah.
Then there’s Anna. Thick makeup masking
blue-black bruises curtesy of her current lover,
speaking in a whisper, saying she is six months sober
and deserves a purple chip, despite
the fact that her words are slop-slurred
and there are no purple chips.
I sip the bitter coffee. It must have been
brewed last week.
Someone offers to drive me home.
But I will be back next Wednesday
to join my friends.
Dizzed drunk again.
Under the watchful eye of wooden baby.



I woke in the dark.
The sheets were rough and smelled
of Clorox. White curtains around my bed,
ghosts with thin hearts.
The woman next to me had a rasping cough.
I was seventeen.
Seventy-five pounds.
My best.
I had overheard the doctor tell my father I might die.
Heart muscle damaged. Heart barely beating.

I didn’t care. I waited in the dark.
A nurse came and insisted that I get up.
I tried and fainted.
So there.
They let me stay in bed.
I refused food. Said I wasn’t hungry.
A familiar refrain.
I spoke a few words to the woman
on the other side of the curtain.
I told her my name.
Hers sounded something like Emily,
but her voice was weak, barely a whisper.
I missed my parents.
Why weren’t they there?
A commotion around the woman’s bed.
Doctors, nurses scurrying. Equipment rolling on
squeaky wheels. Hushed voices like a library.
Or a white-walled chapel.

After, they opened the curtain between our beds.
Her bed was empty.
Starched sheets, plumped pillows.
And I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.
To be a ghost with a thin heart.
To disappear. Forever.
I eyed the scrambled eggs on my tray.
To this day I pray for the woman
who saved my life.
I think her name was Emily.

Author Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

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