Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

Poems by Amy Small-McKinney.


This is the Dying Language of the Ös

          …But as elder speakers die, and a language fades, a group loses a part of its culture…Dr. Peter Ladefoged, Linguist



Thirty-five men and women in Siberia speak

with vanishing vowels and consonants, dream

of thirty-five goslings that slide

along Lake Lena


Here in America

I am my husband’s kun garagi—

the eye of the day—

His house is his dream—wooden

with a porch, three chairs—

no one inside except me his Ap chi—

the one who remains at home


Here in America

my day is long a    short o    burdened u

my milky invention of baby   mouth   suck


In my sleep a woman of the Ös

recites her husband’s name three times

I wake, name the ants trekking

toward oblivion along Lilies of the Valley

he brought me 

I name them:

Vow, Frost, Vanish—

I do not want to disappear


What do the Ös say when they awake?

This morning I want to say:

Azen Azen

Hello Hello





This morning a bird

finds fault with a sonata.

A bird whose name

I don’t know. 


Little Bird, is your chirp

Berlinski’s Sonata

for Flute and Piano?


I grow weary.  My common

gloom.  My dissonance.


Imitation— variations

on a theme— leaning toward relief. 

I lean toward love and memory:

Two hands, a sweet slash

of voice rising and falling above me, 

then finally—the hospital—

they opened and closed me.


What is required of us?

I don’t know.  Here is my hand.

There is your wing.

What if you hold me?


Bird. I am only a body.

I close my eyes, listen to you,

fly into a cloud blue

from breathing me in,

breathing me out.


Bird, this is my poem

of hope.  Is there another?


Miriam’s Timbrel

          The same confusion will meet you if you try to find the position or attitude of angels…they are also wind and fire Ps. I04.—Exodus Rabba 25


All I remember were the furious teeth

jutting from her skeleton face

and I had to kiss that skeleton face goodbye.

Little left of her breasts, her vagina,

even her knees and I wanted

to kiss those knees and sing

that stupid song she loved:


          Dayenu Dayenu Dayenu

          It would have been enough.  It would

          have been enough.  It would have been



Enough because she saw

the broken teeth of Esau,

saw her tongue turn to cedar,

sure she would become wind or fire

filled as she was with her faith.


When I part from those I love,

when I feel the world parting

from me, I become stone where

a centipede moves within me.


          I heard her withered arm wave Miriam’s timbrel—

          music of gather   music of divide


Let me sleep inside

her disappearing skin,

skin that read my skin

like midrash dissecting

our who, our why,

unearth icons within

her abridged mouth,

listen for her unsaid

aside.  If she is wind,

I will become wind.

If she is fire, I am fire.

                                                for Elsa Orjuela



Amy Small-McKinney's chapbook, Body of Surrender, published by Finishing Line Press is available on Small-McKinney is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in numerous on-line and print journals, for example, The Cortland Review, The Pedestal Magazine, For Poetry, HiNgE, Elixir, and Poetica. Small-McKinney's interview of poet Bruce Smith, will appear in the April issue of The Pedestal Magazine. Upcoming readings include University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown on April 21st and Cornelia Street Cafe in New York City on June 6th. Her personal essays have been published, periodically, in The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has a Masters in Clinical Neuropsychology and teaches Psychology at local colleges. She resides in Blue Bell, PA with her husband and daughter. The poem, Miriam's Timbrel, is dedicated to Elsa Orjuela, Psychologist and enduring light, who died April, 2005. Amy's email address is:


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