William Doreski – Five Poems
La Farge Blue
So in Trinity Church we stalk
to the altar, then turn to admire
light shivering through the blue,
bottomless blue, that La Farge
embodied in the windows
placed high above the vestibule
to absorb the afternoon sun.
Braced in gloomy stone the blaze
of this implacable color frames
Jesus with two marble pillars
too formal to support the plain
colloquial ministry he preached.
But they hold and focus our gaze
for long moments, infusing
the blue deeply inside us.
Slumped in a pew we avoid
touching each other until
the heavens stop revolving.
The whole afternoon creeps forward
with a slow nervous movement.
What if blasphemous stones fell
and broke these elegant windows?
Would we still regard each other
with a deep-set silence impossible
for the organ to violate?
Are we ready to slip outside?
The windows further deepen.
The autumn sun has lowered
behind the Prudential Tower,
which thrusts into an atmosphere
breathed by ordinary people
among whom we’ll shine discreetly
with colors they’ve yet to explore.
Among the Animals
On the Athenaeum’s fifth floor
in your favorite red leather chair—
the only one compact enough
to cuddle your thighs—you read
Wind in the Willows with bright eyes
shivering across the pages.
Scholars tucked into alcoves
shudder over massive insights
that once unfolded on their laptops
are certain to solve the planet.
They should don the square paper hats
of Newtonians just for fun.
They should hoot and toot like Toad
sputtering in the dust of autos.
They should note how poised you pose
in that red leather chair positioned
to face the length of the building.
Certain standards of intellect
apply to the slightest gestures—
the re-shelving of books, the flip
of a page of one’s notebook,
the tick-tock of computer keys
as a dissertation unfolds
one endnote after another.
Rat and Mole and Toad require
a stable natural environment,
which beyond these tempered walls
has fractured into photographs
too carefully framed to survive.
Your red chair props you against
the city’s onrush. The old gray light
exuded from puritan graves
is faint but still tough enough
to choke those unwary folks
who haven’t found cushy seating
and something golden to read.
Not Drawing Your Portrait
You ask if I’m drawing your portrait. Big filmy eyes, nose strictly Puritan, teeth sharpened by years of bitter speech. Your hair an aerie, your ears trimmed to flatter.
No, I’m not drawing you. I’m sketching the room as if vacant. I like to render the corners oblique, the ceiling and floor acute, the lone window sizzling with sun like fat on a grill.
You’re offended that I’m not portraying you in your jaunty summer dress. Little bows on the shoulders. A bodice like the armor plate of an Abrams tank. Your arms too awkwardly attached to render gracefully.
Be glad that dust in the corners and cracks in the walls don’t remind me of old acne scars and the wrinkles left by unresolved quarrels. You should appreciate my discretion.
And no, that squiggle where the walls and ceiling meet doesn’t represent your spirit, free of the wreckage at last.
This Wired Age
Retrieving an old email
in which you indulge sentiments
endowed by chemical sunsets
and the cooing of urban doves.
As I stare at the screen I note
flecks of brown pain decorating
my fingers, artifacts
of yesterday’s aesthetic moment,
when I decorated a slab
of chipboard with murky swirls
trying to depict a landscape.
You aren’t the earth-color type,
more of European pastels.
Your emotional life erupts
in flamingo, melon, azure,
while mine sulks in umber
and sienna streaked with charcoal.
Although your email’s rhetorical
as exhortations by Cicero,
I could delete it without
qualms if only the paint flecks
on my fingers didn’t render me
shy as a new speckled fawn.
Today the usual uproar
of service folks vacuuming cash.
Two electricians, chimney sweep,
appliance repair. The light sighs
that ulterior sigh no human
has perfected. While the work
of the world clatters around me
I’ll parse your email word by word.
Those sundown tints will shade me
with colors not of my palette,
and the music of your expression
will trip potentially fatal chords
to which my inner ear is deaf.
A New Razor
Shaving with a new razor
excites my flesh and spirit
in neutral but saturated hues.
Not like sailing in heavy chop
the day after a hurricane.
Not like raving on a bicycle
down Mount Washington auto road.
Not even like seeing you gleam
ripe and glib after your bath.
The day promises blue hydrangea
and gentian. A doe and fawns,
three spotted siblings, nibble
burdock that has attracted
the only honeybees I’ve seen
in the past five years. All this
through the bathroom window where
I pose like a toiletry ad
with my new razor already
smutted by whiskers and foam.
Maybe when you shave your legs
you feel something akin to hiking
a snowy ridge with endless views
of frozen lakes and wood-smoke towns.
Maybe you also taste something raw
but sweet, some exotic fruit
without a familiar name. Maybe
sex no longer seems relevant,
like high-school trigonometry.
I can only attest to my own
senses jangling like cowbells
in the winsome August morning
as the last cicada razzes
in a treetop and the scraping
of my new razor pares me down
to the person I rarely become.
William Doreski’s most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals. More at williamdoreski.blogspot.com.