These long and narrow boxes

contain the rolled-up spirits

of people we’ve tried to love.


Some died in metal on metal.

Some ballooned and exploded.

Some drifted far out to sea.


Some haven’t died yet but shed

their ghosts when they lost their faith

in the scent and texture of things.


We tried so hard, but our smiles

crumpled like melons gone bad

and collapsed with shy apologies.


How can we atone for a lack

of sin that in some circumstance

might have staved off boredom?


What should we do with these boxes?

Dozens of them, wood or cardboard

or quality high-test vinyl?


We could rent a self-storage unit

and justify the expense

with all the selves we have to store.


But what if some spirits ooze

from their boxes, unroll

and reshape themselves to haunt?


What if other people renting

space for old furniture and books

complain of the groans and sighs?


Let’s stack the boxes downstairs

and hope that if the basement floods

the spirits quietly drown.


But maybe they’d just get moldy

and smell of rank archaeologies

we’re too amateur to perform.


If Only the Great Lakes Weren’t So Shallow


Weather sieves through open hands

and pools in thick old shadows.


You insist that the garden speaks

to you about biblical matters,


wielding King James’ syntax

with professional aplomb. Keyholed


in the fastness of adulthood,

I hear nothing but want to believe


in the rainbow hues you embrace

without simmer or scald of doubt.


Tornadoes have ravaged the Midwest,

punishing voters for their angst.


Whole cities have collapsed in sticks,

shedding roofs to expose people


in their shyest moments of selfhood.

If only the tall winds could forgive


instead of merely forgetting.

If only the Great Lakes weren’t so shallow.


Here in New England, listening

to the garden’s filthy underground


is simple blasphemy despite

its references to Ezra and Acts.


How can we bend ourselves to our will

instead of plying the old clichés?


Emily Dickinson gardened far

more deliberately, parsing flowers


by peeling away the prophets

to recover their secret names.                                   [stanza break]


Why can’t you be as wispy and strong

as she was, fluttering in shades


of white no one else has captured?

I want to believe, but when I dig


in the garden I unearth stones

that suggest fossilized angels


from a dimension I can’t describe

with my simple high-school math.


Shirasuka                 (after Hiroshige)


A crescent of sandy beach.

A retinue in yellow hats

like an army of toadstools

climbs Schiomizaka Hill.


The distant sea notched with sails

and framed by flat-boughed pines

looks placid enough to drink.

Later this town will move inland,


out of reach of killer waves,

but for now it has snugged itself

firmly below a horizon

too strictly drawn to threaten it.


Fujisawa            (after Hiroshige)


We crowd through a gateway in hope

of catching low tide and wading

to Enoshima where an obscure

but authentic deity resides.


The flimsy bridge to the village

resembles all the other arched

structures along this route but

crosses undrinkable salt.


The houses beyond have sealed

themselves against passersby,

and the famous Buddhist temple

looks stilted among the treetops,


an odd way to build except

to repel casual visitors.

Note those exaggerated stairways,

like a game of Chutes and Ladders.


The island lies somewhere beyond

the temple. The sea-horizon

lies so flat and white we agree

that it looks like a spill of milk.


William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall and Train to Providence, a collaboration with photographer Rodger Kingston.

One thought on “Poems by William Doreski

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