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.