William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent book is A Black River, A Dark Fall.
A Sinkhole at the Landfill
Hosing out the garbage pail, I step into a sinkhole thigh-deep, toothed and grinning. Recycling center employees rush over to rescue me from my baroque situation but you laugh so roughly you shake roosting vultures from their perch.
The whole area feels queasy. The tin-roofed sheds are quaking as the ground slowly liquefies. A half-dozen parked vehicles slough hub-deep in sandy mush. Dogs nose about, low and slinking, fearful but too curious to run.
Surrounded by stark realists in official government shirts, I hoist myself with some help onto slightly more solid ground. The manager admits that rain has inspired a bit of mud but hardly deep enough to swallow trucks, people, or structures.
But you suggest we escape before the facility sags into churning murk and muddle. You point to the vultures circling with all of their hungers aroused. The blackest of punctuation, they peer down at us with pin-eyes sharp enough to see the future.
With a shrug of paid indifference, the realists return to work. We creep into our car and start the engine, and the sodden landscape sighs, the sinkhole patched by choking it with a shovelful of gravel as gray as a human brain.
We’ve crossed so many arched bridges braced by spindly pilings. They all seem too dramatic to span those lazy tidal rivers no sailboats try to navigate.
Windy today. Everyone walking west leans into the draft. Those with the weather at their backs slog along unconcerned, one fellow even holding a fan, ready to concoct his own private breeze should the natural one desist.
There’s Mount Akiba sporting its famous shrine. But you’re eyeing the kite some wag has lofted, a disc of paper with a long tail. And look, there’s another, chasing itself, loose and lost in the sky.
The Last Wood Thrush
The last wood thrush reproaches me. What have I done? The recent ice age seems a monument to good sense. The water shortage in India troubles me. Facts morph into farts. Politicians stomp the graveyards flatter than I would have thought possible. While you clean the litter boxes, I deploy my astral self to tour the world. Everything is wanting. Syria coughs up gouts of toxic smoke. Saudi Arabia denies that women exist. Russia fusses over the devalued ruble. China smirks in its cushion of ancient poetry. Japan absorbs repeated tsunamis without blinking. Rio strangles a thousand gangsters and shovels their bodies into the harbor. I note these local effects without letting them affect me. The dazzle of laminated distances furthers my lack of career. I regret the deaths of friends, but the space they occupied has resold for a premium price. Everyone is better off now. Even the proletariat plies the museums of France and Italy. Unimpressed, the wood thrush reminds me that song is everything, the silence only a place without a name.
A roadside teahouse to refresh you. Only a flimsy straw hut, it nonetheless tempts with steamy aromas and a tree for shade as you sit and savor the moment. The gray bird perched on the sign sings a familiar mating song, one to which you’ve often responded. That huge copper teapot intrigues you. In our own era, two hundred years later, this will be a valuable antique. To the woman heating the tea it embodies her economic personhood. A pair of black kimonos dulls the scene, but the lone porter in plaid poking at something with chopsticks looks thoughtful rather than glum. You’re perhaps halfway to Kyoto, so enjoy your tea and congratulate yourself on coming so far on foot.
From the Universal Crime Log
A shopping cart flopped in shallows. Sunlight quickens the water in shades of brass and sky. Someone
piloted this contraption to crash in the saddest posture, then ran to cuddle with his fellow drunks
and boast about his pointless crime. I could rescue the cart but doubt it belongs to any nearby store.
I could demand the police look into “conduct after an accident,” but they’d probably arrest me
for being the first on the scene. The river shudders along slowly feeling its way to the sea where
criminal acts loom much larger and involve seagulls and barely decent swimwear, plastic trash
and untreated sewage, long black oil tankers likely to run aground and spill their viscous cargo.
I thrust a hand in the current and feel it tug so slightly its weakness almost makes me cry.
The shopping cart hasn’t lain here for more than a week. Maybe I could rescue and claim it,
load my favorite possessions, wander around town all day among the other godless people
and sleep under overhangs while thunderstorms crash and stars fall into the river, burning holes
about as big as a finger. No, I couldn’t sustain that pose. Better leave drowned objects lie--
the river’s secret imperative not for me to textualize or anyone else to deny.