Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal
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SUMMER 2015: "Outliers with Boundaries"

The Basket Makers
Indian Island, Old Town, Maine

Ungirdled and merry
regaled me with stories
long gone lovers
no good husbands
jibes and wisecracks
splintered the rough
workroom with laughter
weaving, weaving,
fragrance of sweet grass
surrounding their
loosened gray hair.

In the museum
now under glass
baskets lined up
in silent rows
that give nothing away
only the names of
the makers displayed
neatly on white cards
on gravestones elsewhere
but I am still here
and I still remember.

Brown fingers moving
in and out, in and out
strips of white ash
braids of dried grass
miracles rising
out of their hands.
Even now when I open
my own sewing basket
I hear very faintly
a chuckling, a humming
a drumming, a hey ya.

—Dolores Stewart, Plymouth, MA

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There's too much sex in the world.
Just thinking about all the sex in the world
turns me off. There's too much increase.
Everywhere I look these days
there's fecundity. Everyone and everything
is prolific as fuck. It makes me feel
unproductive. It makes me feel downright
old. It wasn't always this way, though.
There wasn't always too much sex in the world.
And just thinking about all the sex in the world
used to turn me on. I used to love to watch
all the sex in the world. I was a collector
in my youth. When the Internet came along
I was a sort of researcher, searching again
and again (almost every night, and assiduously
several times in a day) for all the beautiful
bodies in the world, which never before
in the history of the world had been so
accessible. But now there's too much
access, too much sex, too much seed
on the wind, too much pollen in the air,
too much copulating on the ground. There's
too much begetting in the world and I'm
getting old, I'm getting downright chaste.

—Paul Hostovsky, Medfield, MA

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Indian Love Affair
Early Eighties

In talkathons we trod
a thousand topics
but on omphalos—
mosh of our feelings
and their frequencies
we found ourselves muzzled.

In other ventures I wasn't weak
neither were you vulnerable.
We could not keep steps
with seesaws of love
and scrutate how and why we were
supplying each other these jars of joy?

In maps with miasmaic overtones
we were outliers with boundaries.
We neither had range
nor role models
to tempt us thread
those terrae incognitae.

We ached for anchors.
When we scoured for psalms
there were none.

—Sanjeev Sethi, Mumbai, India

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Чернеют дерева, глаза мои осенни.
Чернеют дерева, души осенний вид.
Чернеют дерева, дни певчие пропели,
И голубь на карниз осенним днём прибит.

Прости меня, моя весенняя невеста.
Как бы хотелось мне женой тебя назвать!
Но надо ли тебе в душе осенней место?
И стоит ли тебе женой осенней стать?

Прости меня, моя весенняя природа.
Чернеют дерева, в глазах осенний вид.
Дождь длится целый день, деревья входят в воду,
И голубь на карниз осенним днём прибит.

—Viktor Shirali, St Petersburg, Russia


The trees turn black, autumn is in my eyes.
The trees turn black, and autumn in my soul.
The trees turn black, my songs are all sung out,
A dove has smashed itself against the wall.

I beg forgiveness, you, my springtime bride.
My wife, if I could think of you that way!
But do you need to find an autumn place,
An autumn marriage in my soul today?

I beg forgiveness, you, my springtime nature.
The trees turn black, and in my eyes it's fall.
It rains all day, the trees are dripping wet,
A dove has smashed itself against the wall.

—Translated by J. Kates, Fitzwilliam, NH

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Labor and Delivery

I held a blanket to my chest

cupping a boy with his mother's nose,
a notion of eyebrows never to raise.

Little bird, breath
enough only

for 8 p.m.

—Kathleen M. McCann, Yuma, AZ

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Gib mir das Wegrecht
über die Kornstiege zu deinem Schlaf,
das Wegrecht
über den Schlafpfad,
das Recht dass ich Tort stechen kann
am Herzhang,

—Paul Celan, 1920-1970


Give me leave
To climb the barley-stairs
To your sleep,
Along the path of your dream,
The right to cut turf
From your heart's heath
In the morning.

—translated by Frederick Lowe, Frenchtown, NJ

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My first real boyfriend was a cadaver

He annoyed my mother.
"He looks like a starved dog!" she'd say any time he wasn't around.
"Hollow. Not like a real man." "That's why I like him," I said,
but she didn't stop trying to set me up with someone warm,
and she wasn't wrong: he was shrink-wrapped in skin so pale
it was almost translucent, his lips were blue,
and he was cold—like meat locker cold—
and I used to take showers so hot my skin would lobster
before I climbed on top of him on the couch to make out, and still,
I always ended up shivering. But I liked to follow the green veins
on his forearms to his chest, where the coroner's Y incision had opened him up.
Just thinking about how the inside of him was so close to the surface
along those jagged cuts made my heart race.
The thick stitches used to sew him back up were like weird, sparse chest hair,
and the knots were big enough to pull apart like a shoelace.
The first time I undid one, I did it like a dare,
looking him in his milky eyes the whole time.
He didn't seem to mind, just raised an eyebrow.
I undid another. It was like unbuttoning a shirt, slow.
He watched me as I did it, watched me lay him open
like a rib spreader. He smiled vaguely.
All his smiles were vague by that point, and his voice
was mostly just chthonic groaning. Even his letters
had become incoherent scribbles as his brain rotted away,
and his skin was turning green at the extremities,
but his heart!
It was perfect, nestled there between his liver and lungs;
it glistened like a Jell-O mold and I could hold it in my hands
and feel its shuddering beats. Sometimes I would knot him closed again,
but keep his heart and carry it with me in a Ziploc
tucked in an inside pocket of my jacket.
My mother rolled her eyes. "God, what if the bag springs a leak?"
she asked. "You look all lumpy. Like one of your boobs is too big."
"I don't care," I said. "It's nice."
"I'm surprised dogs don't chase you down the street." She sighed.
"Why couldn't you like that banker?"
She'd tried to set me up the previous week, and all the weeks before,
and I'd gone because I was a student at the time, and dates meant free dinner.
Most of them had been nice. But not one of them ever ended with the kind of rush I got
when my hands were gloved in blood to the wrists
and I could see the look on my boyfriend's face as I pulled out his heart—
the pure, terrible trust of someone who knows you
and wants to give you what you want.

—Erinn Batykefer, Stamford, CT

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Splitting Stone

Don't be fooled by the grin
or that dopey accent—this man
can do the math. 26,000 lbs.

of Deer Isle granite, split
with a 2 lb. hammer, same
as the 19th century. He can

prop up the feathers and wedges
like ramets burst from a nurse
log, felled in some long-off

blow. He can play that block
of stone as though it were
a glockenspiel—tap, ting

tap, ting—down the three part
line. The small cracks begin
to form; if you listen closely, you

can hear the faces starting
to shear. You can hear the music
of the hammer on the wedges,

the deep tones changing as
the granite breeches, the groans
and pops as openings reach

for each other. The hollows sound
as they come apart, they crackle
and pause, there is a pling of iron

as he pulls the feathers out,
silence where something
used to be, but isn't anymore.

—Sonja Johanson, Medfield, MA

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Possible Suicide

A friend dies in a wreck,
likely not accidental. Later

I hear a story about a guy sitting in his car
with a gun in his mouth, saved
by too much tequila hurled into the barrel,

then stumbling out onto the sand,
gritty between his toes, squinting down
at the white sun glaring in the water.

I think of her then
and how we couldn't save her.

I think of that night after my mother died.
Slicing mushrooms into razor slivers
while the sun melted softly behind me

and the knife slipped
and for a moment, how good it felt
resting the cool wet blade against my wrist.

—Jenny Qi, San Francisco, CA

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The Shims

He sat on the front
Porch on a kitchen chair
Forsaken at the curb
By someone and
Whittled scrap pieces
Of soft pine
The lumberyard left
Him have for free.
With a pocket knife
He shaped them
Thinner and thinner
Into wedges barely
A gnat's wink thick.
Grandma accused him
Of making a mess
With curlicue shavings
Scattered like wood snow
But he said he
Was making shims
To set the world straight.

—K.S. Hardy, Bowling Green, OH

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