Poetry: William Doreski

William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His poetry, essays, reviews, and fiction have appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent books are A Black River, A Dark Fall, a poetry collection, and Train to Providence, a collaboration with photographer Rodger Kingston. His website is williamdoreski.blogspot.com.

Interstitial at Last

Tonight I’m a mid-life Pole:
six brimming children and spouse
bearing a large, cloudless expression.
Driving my two-tone sedan
in crumpled urban neighborhoods
I’m alert to architectural
motifs dancing in the ozone,
and point them out to my kids.

Columns, architraves, Carpenter
Gothic trim. The city oozes
details from which we all learn.
I realize I’ve always wanted
to be the whole person I am.
My wife examines me with pride.
My children upholster me
in affection as the car rises
above the built environment
and enters a hole in the clouds.

Such a smooth new highway.
I smile at my kids, but now
they’re adults: lawyers, surgeons,
techies. They open their hands
to reveal greasy wads of cash,
to pay me for my fatherhood.
My wife, ageless with good humor,
tosses the money from her window
to rain on the world we left.


Inside the inn a man
returns from the bath, a towel
draped over his meaty shoulder.

Another man smoking a pipe
reclines while a blind masseur
kneels in the open doorway.

To the right, in their own room,
three women touch up their makeup
as they prepare to entertain.

Is this a place of sex work
or merely of roadside rest?
The rooms stand so widely open

to the plank connecting walkway
that nothing remains secret
for more than a moment or two.

Ghost Photo

A twenty-by-thirty-foot plot
excavated eight feet deep
at the edge of a gnarly forest
less than a mile from my house.
Photographing it reveals
half a dozen old slate gravestones
jabbed into a weedy field.
How could my camera detect
the scene as it was before
this recent desecration?

I post the photo online
and people respond in droves,
claiming that their ancestors
had reposed for two centuries
before the power shovels arrived
to remove them to oblivion
and despoil the family name.
Only six people buried here,
but I get a hundred responses,
each authentically punctuated.

I return to the site. The earth
looks raw and hungry. A smear
of groundwater coughs up a frog.
Rain will eventually fill the pond
and crumble the banks to suggest
a natural occurrence. Turtles
will arrive with all their luggage,
and a blue heron will learn
that this new fishery’s too deep
for wading birds to angle.

I can read in my photograph
all the names on the gravestones,
but none of them seem familiar.
The picture doesn’t fade the way
ghost photos are supposed to.
Maybe because it’s digital,
or maybe because mysteries
no longer hide in the dusk
but brazen in broad daylight
with all of their details intact.


Farmers pose around a bonfire.
I move closer to warm myself
but avoid the heavy man baring
his rump to the smoky heat.
His pipe smoke barely competes
with the whirlwind of the woodfire
but he looks as happy as a warthog.

The others ignore him. A woman
cradles a baby; a traveler
glances back at me and the road
we’ve just traversed. Taking part
in this comfortable genre scene
proves that life still mimics art.

The background is also aesthetic.
Simplified and almost cubist,
the village hunkered on the far side
of the field could be anyone’s
home town, a point of origin
as well as a color on the map.

Flirting with the Rite

The summer days shrink to fit.
Flowers I’ve never seen before
greet me with familiarity.
The last songbirds sing clearly
enough to defy their extinction.
Yet horizons have warped, and sighs
from the mud along the river
represent a loss of momentum
that belies the sun’s jaunty angle.

How could we allow the vapors
to flirt with such toxic thoughts?
How could we neglect the furnishings
of caverns, dens, dreys, and nests?
The usual owl spoke at length,
but I was too sleepy to listen.
The stink that began after midnight,
the larger universal midnight,
has expanded to include everyone
in its sultry state of disgrace.

Our local billionaire withdraws
with a turtle-like disdain
when he passes me on the path
to the little park where daily
he exposes himself to children
who have never seen money before.
The owl spoke to him also,
but he didn’t listen any more
than I did. The river inhales
so much debris, yet exhales
gusts of the purest intention.

I would step into the shallows
and rebaptize myself in honor
of the greatest of all abstractions.
But the parking lots have filled,
the storefronts glisten with sweat,
and the women in summer clothing
look flimsy enough to shame me
for mocking the will to drown.

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