Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal
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WINTER 2016: "Auguries of Peace"

Baby Bunting

The lilt of you, wispy breath
snow singing into flesh,

my little ensign, badge, dawn
drawing its many-colored chalks,

erasing, that too, the rabbit flying
her white flag of surrender.

Rowdy rag, wilt and warning
when we drag you down the fly pole,

fold, press you to a mother
or brother, what matter then?

You bare, as thread bears
itself, passerine bones

of indigo, bunting scrawl
on the firmament, pall

wrap and wrapping
pen and pennant

or ortolan, so close
now to extinction,

that banner bird,
feather and feast–

cover our heads with napkins
as we eat.

—Lois Marie Harrod, Hopewell, NJ

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Aylan Refused the Skin of Water

a boy all by himself
came to the shore with no boat
after the sea wormed in and
sunk herself in his stomach and
pushed him to the margin
where clay returns to sand
when it refuses her skin of water

the world is giving a funeral
in tabloids; only the dead are in dire need
of where to lie because they rot
the living are left to wonder
in the sea and its extension
in search of clouds that do not leak

you went with the city into the sea
knowing it's a killer that doesn't let you rot on a street blaring in sniper shots
home is now the sea swallowing and vomiting all that have gone into her mouth salty with the scenes of
bullets pulling men and women to kneel as they gather what remains of their children—

home is the road being roved
in search of a house that shuts its doors when you arrive

—Saddiq Dzukogi, Minna, Nigeria

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The Poet at One

Out of the tohu-bohu came,
speechless and thoughtless,
that blob of baby fat,
simple as milk.

She can't remember, but she was there,
sleeping, babbling, learning to walk,
and the people who would ruin her life,
they were there too, taking care of her.

—Ruth Holzer, Herndon, VA

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ئىستانبۇلنىڭ بىر پارچىسى (A Piece of Istanbul)

2015-يىل 8-ماي،ئىستانبۇل
قىزىل ۋە ئاقلار ، مېنى كېكەچ دەپ قالدى. قۇچاقلىغۇم كەلدى.پۇراپ باقمىدىم. مەجرۇھ سېپىلنىڭ تېنىدىن تىل ئۈنۈپ چىقىپتۇ، دېڭىزغا سوزۇلۇپ-سوزۇلۇپ، سەرسان دولقۇننى تېتىپ باقماقچىدەك. ساھىل ۋە يوللار، مېنى گاس دەپ قالدى. نېمانچە جىق سۇ، سانسىز پۇتلار دەسسەپ تۇرمىسا، پۇلات ئاسمان بېسىپ تۇرمىسا، دەرد-ھەسرەتلەر سۆيۈپ تۇرمىسا، تېشىپ كېتىدىغان.يەنە بېشىمغا قونغان چايكا. تۇغ ۋە بايراقلار، مېنى ئەما دەپ قالدى. تاكسىم مايدانىغا ياتقۇزۇلغان كىچىك كېسەك. مېنى كۆرمەيدۇ دەپ چاقناپ سالغان ئەينەك. ئىگىسىدىن قۇتۇلغان تەڭگە. بېشى بىلەن ماڭىدىغانلار. مېنىڭ شۇنچە پەرۋا قىلغىنىم زادى يەتمىدى! بازار ۋە كوچىلار، مېنى چولاق دەپ قالدى. ئۇنى گۈزەل دېگەنلەر يىراقتا. قىستا-قىستاڭ. بېشى قايغان قىزلار.شەيتان سودىگەرلەر.ئىگىز-پەس. سوۋغىلارنى ئاغزىمغا سالدىم.قارلىغاچ كۆرمىدىم. كوچىنىڭ بېشى يوق، مەن بىلەن كارى ھەم يوق. مۇنار ۋە ھەيكەللەر، مېنى توكۇر دەپ قالدى. سۇلتان ئەھمەت جامەسىنىڭ تاش بوسۇغىسى، پۇتۇمغا مۇستەھكەم تەگدى.تۇتۇپ باقمىدىم. ئەي گۈلدۈرمامىلىق يامغۇرنى ساختىپەزلىكتە ئەيىپلەيدىغانلار، مەن بارا-بارا قورۇنۇپ قالدىم.تەنھالىقىم يەتتى. ناننىڭ بىر پارچىسىدەك، مۇزنىڭ بىر پارچىسىدەك، تاشنىڭ بىر پارچىسىدەك، مېنىڭ ھېس قىلغىنىم ئىستانبۇلنىڭ بىرلا پارچىسى.

—Tahir Hamut, Urümchi, China

A Piece of Istanbul

May 8, 2015, Istanbul

Reds and whites, they thought I was a stutterer.
I wanted to hug them. I didn't sniff them.
A language appeared through a wounded barricade,
it stretched all the way to the sea,
and tried to taste the waves of exile.

The beaches and roads, they thought I was deaf.
So much water, if countless feet don't tramp it down,
if the steel doesn't press it back,
if the pain doesn't kiss it,
it will overflow. A seagull landed on my head again.

Banners and flags, they thought I was blind.
Small bricks paved Taksim Square.
The glasses flashed thinking I wouldn't see it.
A coin escaped from its owner. People walked on their heads.
My overeager attention was never enough!

Bazaars and streets, they thought I was lame.
People who had said it was beautiful were far away. Cramped.
Confused girls. Cunning businessmen. Uneven.
I put the gifts up to my mouth. I didn't see a swallow.
The street had no beginning, it doesn't care about me either.

Towers and monuments, thought I was a cripple.
The stone threshold of Sultan Ehmet Mosque,
firmly hit my feet. I didn't touch it with my hands.
Hey you people who accuse the thunderstorm of cheating,
I slowly came to feel estranged. My loneliness reached its peak.

Like a piece of naan,
Like a piece of ice,
Like a piece of stone,
What I felt
Was merely a part of Istanbul.

—Translated by Darren Byler, Seattle, WA and Dilmurat, Xinjang, China

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Reading Jose Marti at Churchill's, Miami

I order a Cuba Libre even though I know
they don't serve Cuban rum, and watch
the punk band on stage sweat music into
the crowd that begins to form a giant maelstrom
of wailing limbs, heads snapping back and forth
to the thunderstorm of double bass drums,
guitars electrifying the air thick with smoke, voices
rising like balloons slipped from a hand. I find
myself nodding along, a buoy in premonitory waters,
surrounding by flailing strangers that seem to be
reaching out to me, for me. I pocket my glasses, use
"Versos Sencillos" as a coaster, and charge into the eye.

—Ariel Francisco, Miami, FL
Youth Poet

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Tattoo

They say pain has no memory, no vigilant nous,
But here in the flimflam moment before the needle hits her skin,
Before perception smacks reality, she wonders how they
Know this.
He appraises her fast, the youthful artist- sees her as a fainter.
There is unspoken agreement, body to body, eye to eye,
The time frame is small.
The whip cracking, spine arching response to blunt pain sends her
Flying through the corridors and old walls of her mind, to conjure up
Any loved one's face-to stay the assault. But only a vandal appears, a
Soul snaring nomad.
Skin drawn taut between his fingers, the artist never looks up, but
Tenses to her indrawn breath, shivery torso- his lips compressing
Slightly- and keeps going.
Finishing, cleaning up, end things, he looks at her and nods- not a fainter
After all. This one knows more about her in twenty minutes, than all the
Rest put together.

—Marian Kilcoyne, Westport, Ireland

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That chubby man in the Pork Baby Back Ribs restaurant

When I walked into the restaurant was sad and lonely and feel that there was no one here for me
till I see the Pork Baby Back Ribs man
The way he eats the Pork Baby Back Ribs makes my heart go two forty six
When he walked buy and I saw that body I just think of that by R. Kelley song
Then I get to fantasize about him wrapping his arm around me and telling me that he loves me
He told the waitress that he can cook s mean Pork Baby Back Ribs
Oh how I want to taste his ribs and give my opinion about those ribs.
He has the sexiest Pork Baby Back body that should being loved and not being laid'
My friend looks at me and ask when I am going to get the courage and ask him out
I am scared and worried that he might turn me away
But the amazing things had happen he walked over to talk to me and I gave him my phone number
And then I felt so good and then I wonder should I cheat on him, but then I told myself that
I have to be a good girl to the Pork Baby Back
I might been abused and hurt by men, but well I am willing to give chance and date the barbecue man

—Latoya Kidd, Largo, MD

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East by Southeast

The pig organ. Stomach Steinway,
accordian of light. Right hand rides
shotgun cross Georgia. Romeo in Atlanta
can't pronounce your name but that
doesn't keep him from calling. Jesus.

No matter how much you practice,
can't change the chord. Sounds just as it
did the first time in the missionary position.
You tried to play Bach's Toccata and Fugue
in D Minor as if that would steamroll the tide.

But never mind, there must be others like you,
ones the Big Bang left behind in horse suspenders
and sacrificial fingering, you know what you mean.
Chow mein isn't very satisfying
when you want razorback hog.

Flak in the pond, the frog croaks
the ivory. You need something to remember
the war by, a creamy schmaltz
with a splash of gin. Someone's asking
you to play it again, blindly with feeling.

—Lois Marie Harrod, Hopewell, NJ

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Portrait of My Father in the 1960s
(Or, What Dad Taught Me About Writing Fiction)

While he was serving mandatory time
in the Lục quân Việt Nam Cộng hòa, my dad
sat for this photograph. It's monochrome,
a fact that makes his twenty-year-old head

look handsome in a weirdly Anglo way:
wide-eyed, lush-coiffed, full-lipped. Ba never speaks
of the months he spent in military training,
the guns, the drills, the mess hall meals, the jokes

and heated nighttime talks he must have shared
with bunkmates. When my preteen sis declared
her history teacher was making all the kids

interview their dads about their G.I. years,
Ba smiled: "Let's make up lies that'll spin their heads!"
(He wished her to stand tall before her peers.)

—Jenna Le, New York, NY

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The Liberation of Opposites

Weep, they tell us, hold your head down between your knees and blur your eyes with tears until you really see.
—Robert Kelly

Your last words were insistent, muffled syllables we couldn't understand.
A nurse came in and gave you a shot. You turned into a heart on the screen.
We watched you breathe for three days. You went where you went. We tried
to follow. A map is a story, something to measure, comforting figures and lines,
heartbeat, breath, blood ox. Now it is Sunday. The central line is out, that helped us
imagine you at peace. The alarms are off. One jagged line flattens into Apnea.
The map traces your lack of breath and gives it to me. I fold into my knees.
My face cracks into flesh, eyes, rivers. You look the same. For 10, 15 minutes,
the heart staggers on alone, numbers slowly diminishing. I try to memorize the hair
on your arm. I stare at the screen, all muscle, stifled sneeze, no god to bless me.
Imperfectly quiet, I explode into myself. No, damnit, I will not bawl for you, my body
speaks quite well enough. A hand touches me. Now the screen can't find you,
the numbers turn into question marks. Someone says, "It is 5:15." I have lost my arms.
Now you are nothing. You speak through me, a last request I will never understand.

—Michael McDonough, New York, NY

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Saw-whet

Autumn on the island, wrack rocks and North Atlantic
swells, black spruce and blackberries staining pants
and teeth, we day-band confusing fall warblers,

each with a hatch year's pink skull. Night is for
saw-whets. Flashlight clenched under a chin, petrels
chortling under our feet, we find a dozen tangled.

Clear the talons first, you say, there are needles
hidden in those soft feathers. It's my hatch year too
and everything is new—the asymmetrical ears,

the marigold eye. I know nothing about their migration
. How the world does not sleep at night. Between you
and me girl, I think they all die, you say. You think

they can make it across that gulf with wings shaped
like this? I don't know what I think except it's no less
odd for us to be up all night too wandering damp dark

woods to crimp a small metal band around the leg
of an ocean bound owl. Holding one up for a photo,
its claw pierces your palm because, though cute as hell,

we forget for them it's all about killing, eating,
and something else we'll never know. Who can imagine
seeing polarized light? Between you and me girl,

you say, passing another cigar to go with the rum,
there's nothing wrong with being a bit trapped in
some net, caught out at dawn blinking at the light.

—Susan Johnson, South Hadley, MA

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