July 20, 2018

Meditative Elements: The Poetry of William Doreski

Meditative Elements: The Poetry of William Doreski

A Postcard from the Ether

The first shy dusting of snow

looks too naked to threaten us

with its pale, indefinite motives.


It can’t elide our visions

of banana trees flourishing

many-fingered hands of fruit


in suburbs littered with wrecks

of nineteen-Fifties Chevys and Fords.

It can’t erase our dreams of melons


bowling down sky avenues

broader than aircraft carriers.

It can’t persuade us that songs


about summer moonlight swelling

the hearts of dancing couples

can’t snuff the laugh of the dead


still standing where we left them.

The eagle we saw yesterday

cruised over the river,


scanned for fish and fended off

the racket and teasing of crows,

reminded us how negative light


falls in sheaves despite the grace

and curvature of one’s narrative.

The snow changes nothing although


it pretends to. It’s a postcard

from the ether, illegible scrawl

of blackmail and threat, nothing


worth reporting to the cosmos,

since already diluted by

that obesity’s massive humor.


A Violet Haze

Another dream of war lost

or won before I was born.

Airplanes strafing civilians,

bombs toppling ugly churches,

bank tellers rescuing cash

from the latest local firestorm.

I’ve awakened into a new year

that already owes everything

to the old: a debt too large

for the frozen silence to pay.

When you speak, a violet haze

ripples across the landscape

as if evolution continues

without regard for the past.

When you rattle dishes to feed

the cats, stones deep in the earth

commemorate glacial origins.

I try to explain my war dream,

but remember being accused

of killing seventeen hundred

civilians in woolen topcoats.

Police wanted to question me,

but were distracted by a woman

with a blonde pigtail who claimed

my absent body for a prop

in a play she hadn’t written.

You believed you knew this woman,

understood her motives, shared

her professional approach to life.

But she’s only a shadow lit

by neurons sparking in the dark

congealed in the back of my skull.

We agree that the new year takes

after the old. The snow looks tough

as ceramic, and the deer stripping

our favorite shrubs look grateful

that it’s too cold for carnivores

like us to expose ourselves

to them or to each other.


Water Getting Naked

When I meet you at the falls

you’re candid as a starling

and almost as decorative.

The crackle of ice thinking

about more ice claims our attention.


The hiss of water getting naked

struggles to form an idea

to compete with the notion of freeze.

We’re here to conspire against

the oblique angles that frame


losses we’ve separately endured.

We’re here to look each other

frankly in the intellect and judge

whether our parts could adhere

in a gentler, kinder season.


The waterfall never stops falling,

never tires of its elegance,

never regrets its narcissism.

We could learn from its many

fey striations, conquer ourselves


with comparable flexibility,

but we have to approach ourselves

and each other in thicker terms

to avoid falling through the ice

and drowning in the little pool


at the foot of the waterfall.

We’ve dodged such lack of ego

before. Your fresh new candor

should help us deploy ourselves

in crisp new postures we’ll practice


until spring, when their utility

will become public, and the cries

of starlings will gather in treetops

with a vast and singular music

hardly anyone will recognize.



Les Chats Noirs

Tonight I’m a French policeman

who doesn’t speak French. The crimes

that confront me dwarf the universe

at the moment of its birth.

They implicate les chats noirs,


their night marauding, their cries

of singular passion. You ask

if they play saxophone or trumpet,

but you’re thinking of that jazz club

we haunted thirty years ago,


the one called Les Chats Noir,

where musicians burst like grenades.

Those days have withered away

and left the faintest residue

to tease us out of memory.


No, my black cats are a species

apart, their crimes embedded

in their DNA although

it’s also our DNA, a gift

of evolution run amok.


Because I don’t speak French, les chats

refuse to listen or obey

when I admonish them for yowling

into the star-struck early hours

when drunks topple at the curb


and marriage vows forsake themselves.

Night after night I chase after cats.

Their cackling laughter maddens me,

but please don’t pity or comfort me—

the pursuit is its own reward.


Some night when I wake from this task

I’ll still be in uniform,

and maybe then you’ll embrace me

as cat-shadows gust over us

in riffs of dismembered chords.


Mutual Molestation

Days of mutual molestation

have passed, left residue

too bleak and sticky to ignore.


Neither candor of winter trees

nor the crisp of solitude heals

the corrugated silence weeping


into the vacuum bordering

the space we wish to occupy.

You claim I lifted a scab


to endorse a source of infection,

but I’m sure your tender gaze

lofted spectra to kill the ether.


How can we reconcile stone

with glass? How can we solve

the skyscrapers? The city deploys


plows to civilize snowstorms

that otherwise would thicken

the streets in a lack of color


too sad for us to survive.

The molestation always occurs

at dawn or dusk, never at noon


or midnight. Reading Dickinson

sometimes defers it, but

reading Whitman encourages


the spinal fusions that results

from unkempt passions amok.

We pass through that era and smile


at the figures we cut on the ice

of the Frog Pond, everyone grim

with that knowledge only children


can safely absorb. No more

skating on thin ice. The winter

insulates us from each other,


and our clenched spirits cringe

as the wind tickles the secrets

we lack the nerve to expose.




William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall.



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