Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal

Fall 2010 Poems
"Mouth Full of Hornets"

Keeping Watch

                               for another hard frost

Bless the brotherhood of pickup trucks curbside
outfitted with tools of the trade he was master of.
Bless the blueprints, maps, tripods, tape reels,
flat pencils, plumb lines, levels, squares, planes,
skill saws, drills, screwdrivers and nail guns. And
bless their kneepads, goggles, hardhats, and clean
shirts in case. Bless their dashboards layered
with clipboards and slips. And their lunch boxes
and thermoses. And the calloused splintered hands
of his crew folded over the places tool belts and
carpenter aprons serve. Bless their knowledge of
elevations and reference points building the world
and most of all bless their pride and how they hold
their heads high and humbly before Everything
Mightily Made.

Bless the buildings he apprenticed, journeymanned,
then oversaw along the route from the service
to his grave, his great grandfather's rock walls
bearing witness throughout the Berkshire range.
Give thanks his grandparents never knew. Bless
his boss breaking down when an aunt calls him
a good man for doing all he did to help the father
and vowing to help the son. Bless the women
at the cemetery hugging so hard they lose
their earrings along with his mother's pearl, falling
as if gift offerings to ancestral ground and the
Spirits of the Mohawk Trail honoring the foothills
taking him in. Bless the shadow of his desk-worker
father whose cold hands feel lost holding hammer
and nails to craft a wood cross from his own
sorrowful apprenticeship, and the shivering
silhouette of someone not sure of much anymore
bending to fill his steel-toed boots—cement laced
and tar gemmed—with this year's last flowers
until Creation's faithful ice kisses his stone.

—Patricia Ranzoni, Bucksport, ME

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Last Writes

I tinker with most of my poems even after publication.
I expect to be revising in my coffin as it is being
lowered into the ground.
—Charles Simic

At the wake for the ex-U.S. poet laureate
at the Hotel Fin du Monde someone swore
they heard a scratching sound in the casket

and later, as we wedged the box into
a rocky corner of a New Hampshire bone orchard,
one of the pall bearers, a pallid poet with

acute hearing, caught the sibilant sound
of words being crossed out—"kissing"
substituted for "praying," perhaps, or

"breasts" for "bosom"—the gentle rub
of eraser, the whisper of a breath
to remove residue from the paper

and the click of the miner's lamp
Simic insisted wearing on his head
in lieu of the standard issue laurel wreath.

—Carl Little, Somesville, ME

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After the War(Armenian)

Armenian text for After the War by Ghugas Sirounyan

—Ghugas Sirounyan, Armenia

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After the War

After a truce, war is not over
although roses reappear,
although brooks thaw,
the dead are buried
and the living exhale.

After a truce, war has not ended
even though under the tired heart
the clock on the bomb still ticks.
And even though no one dies
nor finds the ticking timer.

And although snow fills the mine-pitted
landscape and poisonous water
rains on our flowering shrubs,
we do not understand the distance
between heaven and earth.
Ask those who will not return. Ask
the grief that covers the earth.
Ask the soil now precious as heavy lead.
Ask the soil suddenly treasured
the way the gods once were worshipped.

—translated by Diana Der-Hovanessian, Cambridge MA

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Jonah, on a Prophet's Welcome

When people see you coming,
they grip their chairs or children.
Veils are pulled up; shutters slam shut.
The gatekeeper pretends he's asleep.
A thief finishes his meal in one bite.

They recoil, even if the prophet
rarely speaks, never comes to judge.

After you leave, stores re-open.
The thief spits out seeds.
A woman exposes her breast
in an upstairs window.
If you dropped a glove—a scrap of rag!—
it's moved near the mouth
of a jackal's den.

All this
in the country of my God…
I couldn't imagine Nineveh,
where the King himself
fills a barrel with liars' tongues.

—Eric Jon Darby, Syracuse, NY

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Keep the child,
keep the mandrake root.
I've sailed beyond
the sunset, too,
and wiped star's blood
between my thighs.

If you were passing
fancy to my mind
and left heartbroken,
surely immortal
words have soothed
your pride. I'd long
forgotten you
if you'd not set
your snit in verse.

Because I broke
some mold you'd made,
imposed upon the world
without consent,
you are inflamed.
talent, ill-used
to flaunt tradition.

Keep the child.
I am content
to leave you,
leave your words,
for math or moai.
I adjure you:

why stay forever hurt
when you could break
the song you sing,
have a good cry,
get over me,
move on? Be dad
to what you've fathered.

As much disfigured
as your music
stories me,
adventures happen,
the natives unconcerned
by your opinion.
You bought belief
in hierarchy,
binary opposites,
only two
options: you're trapped
if woman is untrue.
I pity you.

—Mary Alexandra Agner, Somerville, MA

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