Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal

SPRING 2010 Poems
"A Desire Unswaddled"


Ignatius thought it a draft beneath the door,
a want unlatched, a desire unswaddled.
It pressed into his sternum from the wrong side
unreachable, misplaced. He blamed
demons. You blame yourself—
beg a spoiled moment gone right for more.

When Roland poached it from the letters, he knew
the word was a tired rehash of the wound. Here's to favoring
the wrong side, years after the broken one grew
stronger from fractures. Classify it with oblique systems.
It's become a practice, an imparlance:
A respite to infinite time. You are not patient—
a beating heart bruised beneath the manubrium.

You replay mutual allegations. Desire
before it derived pleading. Your thumb pressed
ventrally from the neck down
searches for the ache's induction. Remind yourself how
a sternum is an artifact of an obsolete form,
meant to guard you from trauma as you drag your
body across the ground.

—Rachel Hyman, New York, NY

Back to top

Monhegan's Schoolteacher

Jamie Wyeth

Seated by the window
at her table with open book
fresh from her bath
her hands at the towel
shaping her hair
clothed only by another
loosely laid over one thigh
and between

She is bold in her mystery:
her lips hold and are stretched
by something womb-shaped—
Wyeth teases us with its ambiguity—
a slice of fruit? a succulent
of uncertain provenance?
a mouth organ?

The palette does not resolve:
Painterly colors rather than true—
mauve shadows on the sea, dun
in the room, on her parts in shadow  
the harmony and potential of basics

The window opens to the coast,
border to the unfettered ocean,
Maine light stresses her
full belly, significant breasts,
translucent nipples

Why school teacher?
Why on distant Monhegan, how
so brazen and still calm, and to what dedication?
Ocean, light, fully female, instructress.

—Richard Attanasio, Cortlandt Manor, NY

Back to top


a big crow was perched on top of a tree,
like an elephant sitting on a pine needle,
acting like it was as light as a feather

—Mia Iverson, Stow, OH

Youth Poet

Back to top


The tall boy appears older than his age of fourteen.
The self-conscious girl seems younger than her age of fifteen.
His reddish-blond hair sports a persistent afternoon cow-lick
rising victorious over morning applications of mousse.
That shock of hair mocks his stabs at manhood.
Her lilac-scented hair had been washed that morning, just for him.
Betrayed by teenage hormones, her "crowning glory,"
nine hours later, hangs greasy and stringy.
Together they sit on graffiti-strewn vinyl seats of a school bus
oblivious to the stares and gossip of surrounding curious teens.
He tentatively rests his freckled arm around her slumped frame.
She gingerly snuggles her head on his perceived strong shoulder.
There is comfort from all the angst, pressure and uncertainty
that permeates this strange time that follows childhood.
In his blue-water eyes, her shyness dissipates.
In her brown-loam eyes, his awkwardness disappears.
Amid the throes of a first love, together they are formidable.
No one exists to inflict doubt or fear in their world.
This powerful feeling shields them from cruel taunts volleyed
by juvenile peers struggling to find a place on a baffling continuum.
Tongue-tied communication dissolves in the young lovers' universe.
It is a safe, mystical habitat to hide or abide, until…
until…the fickleness of human attraction invades.
Propelling the cow-licked boy and the stringy-haired girl
back to the land of awkward, doubting adolescence.

—Kelsey Tripp, Roanoke, VA

Youth Poet

Back to top

Dancing Flames

The flames are burning out,
soon the candlewicks will be history,
just like we now are forever more

While I wait for the last ember of light,
I watch what the eerie light from
these golden flames does to your face

Eliminating your then soulful blue eyes,
staring right at me, thinking back,
I try to pinpoint where it all went wrong,

When all the light, the hope, in your eyes,
extinguished forever, as I ponder, the
flames give one last dance of light, before,

Your picture, next to your grave,
all I have left of us, of you,
slips into darkness for good.

—Valerie Portolano, Fountain Hills, AZ

Youth Poet

Back to top

plant explosion

leaches old snow

by february
the dross is on the hills

the hills are low
and grunting

men quarry
on the hills.

they blow
away old feldspar

they build
and blow up turbines

they open
a molten flow:

steel, flesh
hair, cash

running to the river

—Holly Jackson, Middletown, CT

Back to top


Only the dead have seen the end of war. —Plato

Above, below, the ages go,
For neither good nor evil stays:
The leaf above the root below
Gives umbrage from the eye of days
But cannot stop a season's snow
From falling down in frozen glaze
Upon the cross joined to the row
Of fallen men in early graves.

Above, below, the ages bide—
Yet still we kill like none has died.

—Jodie Hittle, Saco, ME

Back to top

I Now Suppose

After coming across your name etched in the cheap leather seat on the 8:45 outbound train, I now suppose of you.

Bed of rocks below—I see you face to face
Parted sky—rising sun over ocean tides—I also see you.
I see these leaves of grass growing along the track—wild, self-sufficient.

Old man, long grey beard, piercing grey eyes,
I now suppose you as much as you supposed me.
I see your name engraved in this plastic leather of a seat
You were here, it says.

I think of you
As I think of these men and women,
We move as one through this shallow alley of life.

We've met and we'll depart: all of us
In this paradigm of contingencies.
I think of you while moving forward, unstopping, on these two thin rails.

I see you there, standing—jockeying with gravity—conversing with Mr. Conductor.
I see you there standing like no one else, endlessly rocking, talking, moving,
I see you there in every one of us—in all our bodily solitude.

I see you there, singing yourself into those headphones, the cream in that cup of coffee.
I see you between the cell-phone chatter, the newspaper creases—
In the judgments and false assumptions of human nature.

Oh, you American prophet, you muse of mother and death,
As you once crossed, I too cross this river of time.
No need to engrave your name, lonely sir, your words prevail time and place,

I now suppose of you, how ever many generations hence
As you are with me, ever so many generations since.

—Jared Graham, Rowley, MA

Back to top

Dickinson in the Mountains

A cockle shell
a begging bowl

a prayer and hymn
a cap and brim

a map and walk
a staff and stalk

a satchel
and a fitful journal—

All of these—O Pyrenees—
equip my mind.

What Compostela
will I find? And,

though arbitrary Alps
may bar the way

to Pompeii—
I can see

Vesuvian explosions
here at home.

—Sarah White, New York, NY

Back to top

My Last Signore

Yes the photograph hanging on the wall, enlarged, of course,
is of my last Signore, poor man, so many difficulties.

We decided black and white would be more flattering, more
forgiving of minor imperfections that come, inevitably, with age

despite one's lineage. I had the frame silver-leafed—it suited him
so much more than gold. Not to say he was not worthy of gold—

Oh No. Signore was eminently worthy and yet, silver, antiqued
silver, seemed to suit him, adding a luster to his noble

features, an air of almost sweet affectation... As you know,
Signore was of distinguished parentage, several generations

of papal service, many civic honors, some of which my family
bestowed...and such a generous patron of the arts. Yes, Signore

was respected for his vision and notable too for his own creative
contributions to poetry and music, modest as they were...

Ah, my dear lady, who could replace him? In the arts? In my heart?
No, dear lady, not an evening passes I don't recall the generosity

of his admirations, so generous were they, "to a fault" as they say:
he would bestow his lovely smile on the Contessa Borghese as easily

as on a chambermaid. Can you imagine? And then there was that little
bargirl in Turin. Turin! Again and again—oh, my dear—

and that same evening he would look at me with those doe-like eyes,
that same smile and beguile me once more, like he did the laundress,

as if the favor of my eight-hundred-year old name could be ranked with anyone's.
Oh, I would try to tell him of my distress, but it was not as if

I could say, "Darling, this or that annoys me" or "I do dislike
That cravat, would you select another?" His charming voice

absolved him and so would I; later, I would try again to make
my will clear, but you know how difficult that can be for a woman

and Signore's sensitivities in this regard were,I'm afraid,flowed.
Something in his background perhaps or maleducato—whatever it was,

his lack of judgment or discretion, shall we say, became unbearable.
Oh, my dear, the talk...What could I do? Pope Ignatius understood,

of course, that one in my position could not continue under such scandal;
he settled us amicably, I must say. And I have been told Signore

is quite happy tending to his herb garden at the monastery. So, you see,
Madam, as this year has passed, I am beginning to consider an end

to grieving over what may have been. For my family's sake. For
my name, for the next generation...Your letter intrigued me, Madam.

Your son, George, isn't it? Tell me more about him—Ah, yes, dinner
is waiting. Please, Madam if you will sit at my side we may continue
to speak of your—George, isn't it? Yes, George.

—Angela Consolo Mankiewicz, Los Angeles, CA

Back to top