Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal

FALL 2011: Poems
"Everything Here"


Advice from a Bat

Hunt only at night. Fly erratically.
Defy even your own expectations.
Feed on beetles, moths and mosquitoes,
whatever is small and annoying.
Cultivate the myths about you
until every predator fears your legend.
When hunting, be guided by a language
only you can hear. The same is true
when courting the one you love.
Clean fangs and fur nightly. Crawl
or climb to confuse the observant.
Retreat to a cave no one believes in.
Let the day and the world pass
while you sleep, and sleep upside down,
ready to wake and fall into flight.

—Michael Young, Jersey City, NJ



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The Bluejay Type

Lower your voices
Granny hisses when Marcus
and I get to arguing
over our Happy Meals.
My toy is a dumb
purple kitten bobble head
and he got a green action figure,
which he wouldn't let me see
so his Pepsi got knocked over

by accident, and I called him
dickhead and he called me fartface.

Our Granny has this idea
people should be quiet
in restaurants, but you know
everyone has a certain voice,
like bluejays squawking
and goldfinches on the feeder
making sounds in their throats
only goldfinches can make.
They can't lower their voices.

I am the bluejay type. My Dad
says you have to speak up
to get your rights, and I do.
Marcus, though, he's such a baby,
he talks like a chirpy bird
except when he's hollering Mine!
He can't help it, I guess.
I give him my Pepsi just to show
there's no hard feelings.

—Karie Friedman, Montville, ME



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Possums

Contrary to popular opinion opossums are great rearrangers.
Each night while we sleep they dig up oaks and trade them
with pines. Armies of them—all you can see are marsupial
feet—heave boulders to fill unsightly lawns that cry out for
structure. Possums have a feel for flow without sacrificing
coziness. They hate automobiles and throw them over cliffs,
where possible. Otherwise, they bury them. We know a team
of possums who hauled a bank branch, along with its sign
flashing time and temperature, to a nearby lake and tossed it
in. They have to make compromises, of course, so they put
everything back before dawn. This is why they sleep all day,
upside down.

—J. Stephen Rhodes, Berea, KY



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Odin's Eye

I. Dragon Ship

A dragon ship
rushes
a golden eye
on the footfalls of oars,
runs ahead
of the raven's foresight,
scathes
forked
cliffs
in a
lust-
leap
of lightning.

The crew
crowned
with their steel
hornets' nests
escaped what
feral
asylum.

II. Wolf

Fire spirals
between the worlds.
The wolf runs free.
An iron mouth
drains villages
into wolf-colored trees
and the curt
rape.

III. Dark Bird

A dark bird
drizzles a song.
The ocean
surges with salt
and spins hissing
avenues that pull
storms from a dry eye.

IV. Sleipnir

In the shallows,
surrounded by running,
an eight-legged horse
paws at the foam,
whinnies
the north wind.
The blind sea
glares
at its reflected
freight of stars.

—Carolyn Gelland, Wilton, ME



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Developing

I don't recall how young I was
the day I carried a pan of water
and sheets of blank paper
into my dark closet,
where I dipped the paper
into the water
and waited for images to appear
the way I had seen film developed
in countless movies.
A sudden discovery, a detail of truth
would always emerge
from a watery nothing.
Perhaps the blowup of a date
on a newspaper
would overturn a murder conviction
based on the shaky testimony
of a woman named Wanda Skutnik.
I don't know what I really expected to be there,
but I do know I had joined the ranks of the faithful
who don't know how things work
and that I might continue to put pieces of paper
into pans of water in darkened rooms
and wonder why I would never see anything,
until the day came when I realized
it might be delightful
just to tell you I had done it.

—Ray Skjelbred,


Knotted with Violins

Wood wasps, scorched dark
are eroding.
Birds splinter into red ink.
The air's empty.
Lanterns fail, earth shudders, flooding
deeply down.

Drawn slow from a tattered libretto,
oceans lush
with their spills of oil,
crack open.

Knotted with violins, a melting
symphony
of wrong weather,
bolts of chaos now gathering into
blackness, the stilled
string.

—Gayle Elen Harvey,


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