Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal

FALL 2008 Poems
"Playing a Jazz Samba"



Winter Garden

I am enjoying the last hour of sunlight
here in the winter garden with the toy piano on my lap,
seeing the little patches of snow in the remaining green grass.
I am wearing a red coat, playing a jazz samba on toy piano,
thinking how the sound doesn't match my face,
how the blind make music by feel.
I am soaking in the sunlight through my red coat,
playing a song for a gray squirrel and black bird,
fingers cold on the plastic keys,
instrument out of tune,
mind sifting through soft fogs
rising from the last green grass of the winter.

—Andy Roberts, Columbus, Ohio


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Winter Barn

After the harsh winter
punched a ragged edge into its roof,
the old barn came down. That

was the winter that piled snow
up to my windows, buried all follies
such as picnic tables, swing sets, beach toys,

left me pale and punctured even as men
came with trucks, hammers, a crane
to hover over the gravesite.

I spent all my time that winter
looking out for green, a blade,
a budding leaf on bare branch,

but the men swarmed and struggled, tore
at bleached-white clapboards,
peeled back hair and skin until I shuddered

at each gnaw-toothed claw wrenching
at my naked bones. Two hundred year old
timbers came down, a rib-cage ripped wide

as we huddled among the debris, clutching
at memories, the clang of adze, plane, hot
animal breath and now, our birth-cold body

surrendering floor by floor: the massive hayloft,
seed-scattered with ancient mowings, love affairs,
books that dreamed through hazy locust songs,

the stalls full of horse bones and chickens,
oily harness, swallow wings, bat guano,
tawny chaff floating like sun-birthed snow

and finally below, as we curled
into the black, our curved spine resting at last
against the granite lined shroud, blood pulse, heart,

and the great iron plow, hardened
like an empty womb, waiting a spring furrow.

—Janet Barry, Weare, NH


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Established

now that I am smart, now that I am
a clever guy
who pretends to waltz, uncaring and cozy, toward death
with a suit jacket and a well-tied tie, now that I have
a podium to speak from,
authority that creases your folded mind,
now that I am
older, dressing better, more impatient, important, more
out-loud with sharp opinions, now that most people must respect me, now
that I demand them to, now that I have grey rivers of hair,
maroon, pressed collars, shiny, black shoes, my own house and wife, my own
publications,
solely on talent,
not a plethora of titles, degrees, certificates, years of being
alive, academic rewards, etc.,
now that I have been
detached,
arrogant, mismatched, introverted, extraverted, in the in-crowd, systematic, submissive,
traditional rebellious, conforming, angry, accepting, ambitious
and have given it all away, won it all back, given it all away,
now that others have defined what's "good," what's not,
now that I grew up and still don't understand,
now that I blaze,
giant torch at the blackboard, as little matches
sit at desks and flicker,
now that I stand before you
and you sit before me,
now that I am established…

—Lee Boyle, East Palestine, OH


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Eau d'Mer

When the tide
pulls the sea
to one side
exposing mud,
salted soil,
flattened grasses

shiny ledges,
slippery algae,
crusty barnacles,
escaping scents
meld to an essence
as memorable

as lifting the lid
on Pa's enamel pot
of seafood chowder

—Grace Sheriden, Cutler, ME


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A Different Kind of Couture

They have been in my wardrobe again
those dull, smitten insatiable moths,
lunar looping, constructing phases,
wheedling skins with bag-worn
spinneret-tendrilled limbs.

They have ravaged my power-dressed hide,
and with the artistry of worms,
have left a bullet-holed rag
draggling on an abacus wire.

An unintentional slip of shirt
and I was chrysalis threaded in clay
as this brown-suckling, busy thing
digested my lapel and inch by inch

its trail of flesh-dust spun
a cocoon across my mouth.

—Jayne Fenton Keane, Queensland, Australia


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