5 poems by William Doreski [Poetry]

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.


 Dead Shoes

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).

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