ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems and a translation, by Anthony Seidman

Andalusia after the Assassination of García Lorca


Red wheat, green wheat,
fruit of stone, fruit of heat;
the olive turns green, the oleander red.

Beneath the shadow of a rock,
the cricket forgets his voice.
At the river, the women are soaping their thighs,
and the bass string of a guitar resounds as
seawater swells the hearts of boys playing
with wooden pistols.

Green wheat, red wheat,
fruit of stone, fruit of heat;
the oleander turns green, the olive red. 


No one heard the mare gallop beneath the scalding moon,
no one saw orange blossoms seared
in a contortion of daggers and milk while
lemon burnt lips and the sea swallowed the voices. 
No one sang the hosanna
of thighs bearded with butterflies and roses. 

But now the shrill pink of a carnation
strangles the sleep of desire,
now stars cut the fingers which grope,
now young suitors toss dice from balconies
in the dizzying game called gravity.

Darkness beneath the eyes of widows,
(the morning sky, purple).
Darkness drips from the hands
of cutthroats choking violins,
(the evening sky, black).


Lost in the nightwebbed plaza,
the blind boy was wailing his deep song
about the cricket looking for a voice
among the wheat and oleander bushes,
who then he took up residence
in the blind boy’s blood.


On Modigliani’s Portrait of Diego Rivera

Rotund and jolly, you grin
in a mahogany parlor the color
of a gourmand’s coil of excreta
after a feast of steak and Pinot Noir.

Your melanin glows in red-
earth the texture of chitin.  Now you chuckle,
like the face of an omnibus passenger
half-riant behind the jerky window frame.

Why?  Because you are gorged
with the sap of the pimp,
with the honey of the Pentecost,
with bedroom eyes of Buddha,
with the burp of a lecher sated after brunch.

And despite murals raised above factories,
colors mixed in denim and steel,
colors to eviscerate the pipes of capitalism,
despite the happy mustache of Stalin,
you were, and are in this portrait, a playboy
in heat, well-tailored, and piggish. 




A thinnest mist revivifies
the peach blossoms.
A springtime thrill
bathes the air;
rose of dawn,
amid this perfumed nimbus, 
girls wander with a gait
like feathers. 


Blushing, you resemble
Lady Yang Kuei-Fei
during the Imperial Feast of the peony,
because she, too, mimicked
the cloud of slow colors,
and the glistening, crepuscular dew.

What distances you possess
playing hide-and-seek!
Like the enthralling night-jasmine,
you seep a perfume which
dissipates with a hush.

What will you seek,
having departed to the moon,
if not fireflies?


This poor old sot am I.
Li-Po will accompany me,
retracing our footfalls through
mauve watercolors of dusk,
and from the hills
we will fashion errant fireflies
from the paper-lanterns on our shoulders.   

(Translated from the Spanish of José Gorostiza)


Lord Byron, at 29 Years of Age, Witnesses his First Beheading

Thief had pissed his rag-pants and ripped out nails by clawing at cell door and walls.  Manicured, Byron had been carousing: “tooling” and drunk.  Now bloated, he was on his regimen of soda water and stale biscuits.  Priest and bare-chested executioner discovered the thief’s neck was too large for the aperture; an assistant held him down by the hair.  Barking a Domine over the man’s wailing, Priest flayed the air with holy water.   Byron shook as he stared through opera-glass at the guillotine and condemned.  A rattle…the blade shimmied.  Head was lopped off close to the ears; blood-drool and blue miasma erupted from the skull.  Byron wrote of being left hot and thirsty but attended other executions on a whim.  Years later, in Greece and aiding against the Turks, his bones sweating fever, a storm blotting his light, Byron saw the condemned one who had not committed any greater aberrations than he.   A strophe was whispered for that man gazing at the planks…a matter witnessed by the ephebe who wiped Lord Byron’s brow with a moist, cool cloth, emptied his bedpan, and who spoke Demotic Greek, but not a shred of English.


Anthony Seidman's most recent collection of poetry is “That Beast in the Mirror “ (Black Herald, London/Chartres).  His translations include “Confetti-Ash: Selected Poems of Salvador Novo” (Bitter Oleander Press) and “Contra Natura” (Cardboard House Press) by Rodolfo Hinostroza.  His work has appeared in journals like Los Angeles Review of Books, Jacket2, World Literature Today, Poetry International, New American Writing, Rattle, as well as in journals from Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. 

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