The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Scott Coffel

Gingerly Across the Mudflats


Your creed of rectitude ruined you for love.
Keeping a respectful distance, we watched you walk
gingerly across the mudflats, a man plagued by a spiritual
variant of sciatica that punished bad faith with shock treatments.
Your enemies lay in wait;
you were the mood they could poison at the source,
the slate they could chalk with obscene suggestions,
the Prague Spring they could freeze with cryogenic gas.

Your dossier held an exalted spot in their files;
you were the doctor with their anemic sperm count in his pocket,
the renegade, the zebra, the acquired target
who would not die their prey
but placing a pistol to his head in a calculated gesture of defiance
that leaving nothing to chance, chanced nothingness.


Scott Coffel

The Egon Schiele School for Moral Instruction


Lost in the Devil's Garden, she encountered monoliths
and arches, mule deer and cacti—states of nature at every turn
where no imitation of Christ goes unpunished, her soul descending
to depths of vain secular cunnilingus
with her demon lover, Shemp Howard, a stooge
from the fourth dimension sputtering drivel in pig Latin.

Defiant as Becky Sharp, she left the Egon Schiele School
for Moral Instruction not three standard deviations above normal

but respectable in her own eyes, having
restored her virginity by exploiting a loophole in spacetime—
then resurrecting her parents through the revival
of Thin Ice, their cinematic swansong, a vision of arabesques
and death spirals a stone’s Thoreau from Walden
Pond, a hair’s breadth from Treblinka.




SCOTT COFFEL's first collection of poems, Toucans in the Arctic, received the Poetry Society of America's 2010 Norma Farber First Book Award. Recent honors include the 2013 Boston Review Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Salmagundi, Ploughshares, Paris Review, The Antioch Review, The American Scholar, The Wallace Stevens Journal, The Southern Review, and other journals. He has been awarded artist residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Anderson Center at Tower View.



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