Poetry by William Doreski

Dead Children   
Dead children inhabit
the islands in the river.  
Their appetites grumble 
 like chipped-tooth gears. 
 Their faces wrestle 
 like plates of worms.
  As I leap from island to island
  they trail me in packs,
  eager to play.  What
  if I dodge to firmer ground
  and they follow,
  trespassing in the village
  where your diner thrives
  and men leave you five-dollar tips? 
  You'd never forgive the haunting
  these children would inflict.
  They'd spin the stools
  till the walls shook,
  snatch the 'burgers live
  from the grill, pour coffee
  over each other to baste
  the peeling flesh
  and expose the flexible bones.
  I'd better lose them
  in this maze of brambly islands.
  Bigger, faster than they,
  I've outdistanced all
  but a nine-year-old girl
  whose actual body
  sprawls raped and murdered
  on a gravel beach
  a hundred miles from here. 
  Who wouldn't pause to weep
  for her?  I leap
  to the far bank and ascend
  to the highway where
  a police car idles
  on the shoulder, two cops
  dead of carbon monoxide.
  Only the little girl
  has followed.
  She climbs into the cruiser
  and curls up happy and naked
  in the back seat,
  revenged at last.
  When I arrive at the diner
  I'll try to describe
  her dead face lit
  like a crystal in sunlight;
  but you'll shake your head
  and complain because I took
  the shortcut across 
  those mean little islands,
  agitating the restless dead
  for whom we're not responsible. 

  The Dead Man's Things   
 As I sift through the dead man's things--
  drawers of medals, rosaries, coins
  in plastic envelopes--the dark
  rises in my throat and I share
  for a moment his grave with him.
  What does he think of the boxed games
  for his grandchildren, the half dozen
  crossword puzzle dictionaries 
  on the shelf by his favorite armchair?
  What does he think of the brass trophy
  won sixty years ago at tennis?
  My friend, whose father this was,
  remains indifferent to the stoking
  of ghostly fires in the woodstove,
  the heat of which now blisters me.
  Nor does he fear the fact that someone
  flips the dictionary pages
  in search of a euphonious curse.
  The dark chokes me with a gust
  of silt so I step outside
  and inhale the flaming sundown.
  Not my father who died.  Why suffer
  these symptoms?  Even out here
  I detect the old man's shadow
  cast by lamplight onto the lawn.
  He looks concerned.  Village life,
  a musty affair of beer and sex,
  continues through the computer age,
  its youthful casualties scarred
  head to toe like napalm victims.
  Traffic on Main Street's so quick
  some elderly citizens
  haven't crossed in years.  I breathe
  more of the dying sunlight and taste
  the effervescence of after-shave                                
  splashed for the last time on a dead man
  the day he shaves for his own funeral
  and with a certain dry gratitude
  feels the safety razor penetrate
  straight into the vacuum beyond.

  A Carnival Mood   
  Trapped naked at my girlfriend's house
  as her husband crunches up the walk,
  I dash out the back door to the woods.
  Crouched in the ticklish ferns I feel
  the naked sunlight tan me,
  the cry of a meadowlark brittle
  against my suddenly brittle flesh.
  From the house a cry, a gunshot,
  and the husband emerges, his face 
  a blister, his right hand smoking
  with the deadweight of a pistol.
  I run.  Naked and unashamed,
  I run till the distance cracks open
  and exposes its nuclear core.
  Panting, I lie in the weeds and wait
  for the moon to rise and scorch me.
  All my naked parts whisper
  to each other, plotting against me,
  against the grain.  Why have I lost
  the shame that in a better world
  would sustain me against the dark?
  Another gunshot.  In a clearing
  I find the husband a suicide,
  so I claim his clothes and walk home
  slowly the long way through the woods
  disguised as my former enemy,
  the sundown quivering about me
  in a feverish carnival mood.

 William Doreski, Professor of English, Keene State College (New
 Hampshire), teaches creative writing, literary theory, and modern poetry.



2 responses to “Poetry by William Doreski

  1. I really enjoyed reading your poems, i especially liked “The Dead Man’s Things”. I think the gloomy atmospher is excellently transfered 2 the reader.

  2. Thanks very much, tnx. Not every appreciates a good and gloomy atmosphere!


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