Lemons and Oranges
In the Matisse show the crowd
rattles like saplings in storm.
Watching you slot from one
painting to the next, I lean
above the shorter people
and consider how the artist
merges with the model to form
a single part of speech expressed
in giddy whirlpools of brushwork.
You, in turn, merge with the art
hanging naked on the wall.
You adopt textures and slopes
that would topple some people
but elate those like you who pose
by habit and sometimes by choice
to allow the clash of dimensions
courted by all good painters
to flex right through your body
to illuminate from within.
When you pause before a picture
of a woman seated with lemons
and oranges scattered before her,
a blue and red-striped robe draped
over ballooning green trousers
critiqued by a large golden urn
and framed by red and white hangings,
you become so wholly that woman
that if the fire alarm went off
and we had to evacuate
you’d remain in the painting for good.
Admiring your focus from safe
and slightly philistine distance,
I feel the art moment pass.
That’s because the shadow
trailing after me all my life
has anchored me too firmly
to more familiar dimensions,
averting that leap into color.
Secrets Grounded in Things
On Sundays in May the boats
drift to the middle of the lake
without anyone to row or sail
or fire up their greasy motors.
They confer the way objects
without human presence confer—
with nudges, bumps and sub
nuclear magnetic fields
tingling. Physics teaches us
that objects adhere to objects
yet also repel each other
with the faintest throbs of regret.
Press your ear to anything—
hear that tonal humming?
After a while the boats drift away
from each other and beach themselves
as far from home as possible.
Their owners yawn into the light
and think their boats stolen.
When they recover them they chain
and padlock them to piers,
but the chains and padlocks also
conspire against flesh and bone
so the boats the following Sunday
will again confer mid-lake,
then scatter to those brambly shores
too steep for cottages to cling.
The magnetic fields penetrate
everyone, everyone. Feel them
whispering through you? Secrets,
little secrets grounded in things,
matter affirming itself,
the bronze-burnished lake flaming.
Shoes at the back of my closet:
flap-soled, split-seamed, reeking
of stories they’d like to tell.
The saddest are the desert boots
that hiked all over Somerville,
up Winter Hill, into Charlestown
the summer of being so alone
I tried lying on the railroad
but spooked when a train hooted.
Their red composite soles stiffened
decades ago, but their souls
retain the taste of filthy asphalt,
a breath of crankcase oil and vomit.
Not so sad are the penny loafers
that strode through the hurricane
on Duxbury Marsh. The tide arose
and stranded us in a cottage
with cheap wine, beer, potato chips,
and a mutual lust for drama.
Almost cheerful are the Keds
I sported for tennis on tough
urban courts with sagging nets
and junkies retrieving the balls
for quarters and friendly words.
These sneakers have torn at the seams,
but their soles remain as thick
as the bunk bed we shared in a hut
in the saddle between Mount Adams
and Mount Jefferson one spring
when a freeze burst the water tank
and rime furred the rocks and froze
all the tiny alpine flowers.
The hiking boots I wore that trip
have disappeared into the ether,
but their duplicates, still wearable,
crouch in the dark, waiting for me
to resume the life afoot
I can never quite abandon,
even with these dead shoes mocking me
with their many outthrust tongues.
Leaking into the Universe
Leaking into the universe
as D. H. Lawrence expected
and feared, I lie awake
listening to mushrooms plot
and insects transcend themselves.
I no longer believe that paintings
of orderly Dutch landscapes
displace the landscapes themselves,
in either space or time. I doubt
that novels as thick as my thighs
generate worlds ripe enough
to compensate for first love lost.
My DNA can’t describe me
the way police detectives hope.
My fingerprints shrivel to fit
sideways under the roots of trees
where evolution won’t find them
cringing with a lack of faith.
The last V of geese inscribes
the gloom and arrows southwest
with a chatter of orphaned sounds
the human mind can’t process.
Lawrence wanted to self-contain
in thick and generous paragraphs
or linear declarations saints
could understand. I’m too porous
and tentative for his program,
though. The smell of the marsh
clings like a remembered kiss,
and the texture of city streets
has abraded me as I’ve slept.
Falling into Hades
As a storm ambles down Boylston,
toting its quiver of shocks,
you stumble on the curb and fall
into Hades, dragging me behind.
Not dead, not even injured,
we’ve lurched through a gap between
the worlds of spirit and matter.
Although Boston still roars overhead,
no subway, no sewer or water pipes
traverse this candle-lit expanse.
Humans with the heads of cattle
or hogs or chickens sit at tables
and play cards, read vellum-bound
classics, sip brown or violet liqueurs.
Along the one stone wall we can see
cabinets housing extra heads.
A human-faced bull approaches.
He laughs when we explain ourselves.
People often trip into this pit,
he claims, and many enjoy playing
low-stakes poker, setback, or bridge.
Some, he says, drink toxic drinks
and devolve so quickly they sprout
animal heads before learning
to articulate bestial tongues.
This underworld is so shallow
we hear rain gurgle down gutters
and feel the vibrato of thunder
rattling windows of pricey shops.
The human bull assures us
that we can climb to the surface
using a rusty metal stairway
built to inspect the subway line
but misdirected into this world.
He warns that our bodies remain
in the living world, shopping
for groceries, liquor, toothpaste,
so the jolt of spirit returning
to flesh might befuddle us
like a burst of hay fever
or the unchecked shame of puberty
occurring in a public place.
By William Doreski
- William’s work has previously appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (2018).