You think that posing on the beach
places you in time and space,
Haystack Rock bulking behind you,
a landmark almost large enough
to see from the opposite coast.
The wet sand gleams a stainless gleam.
The few other beachgoers bob
in the distance, shy punctuations.
You expect me to count the teeth
in your smile, each a milestone
on the road from this life to that.
You expect the incoming tide
to honor your barefoot tracks
by enhancing them with foam
and bits of wrack for decor.
Your reasoning warps across time
and the ether to embalm me
in the muddle of rain that follows
every step forward or back
in the general rush of elements.
Did Einstein say anything useful
in the climate of your recurrence,
when you bend like time and touch
your toes in the cloudy light
brimming over the Pacific?
Did he claim that mass contracts
when bodies exert their gravities
in mutually comfortable orbits?
I think mass expands when subject
to your smile,
and the first tremor
of the earthquake that someday will trip
a tsunami fatal to this coast
shudders at the base of Haystack Rock
like a word kept under your tongue.
Money, the Original Sin
An oily bonfire in the street.
Someone's burning currency
in a whirlpool of kerosene.
Rubles, Euros, pesos, levs,
florins, rupees, pulas, yuans.
The stink almost topples me,
but I have to watch the curdle
of notes, their infinite suffering.
You would enjoy this spectacle,
would savor the char and flake
of honest money deflating.
Passersby dodge around the fire,
but some toss in a dollar or two,
their faces brimming with joy.
I wish I had the courage
to empty my wallet and sniff
the full savor of this arson.
You would probably add checkbook
and credit cards to the pyre.
At last a fire engine arrives.
Two firefighters tricked out in brave
yellow coats and helmets stare
into the flames, assessing
their brilliance, force and intention.
Let it burn, one says. A nod,
and they're off. Most of the money
has whirled into the ether,
leaving ash the color of bone.
You'd let it cool, then scoop it up
and save it for a future in which
money, the original sin,
barely lingers in memory.
A Danish tourist choked a swan
by accident. It dangles
in his panicked grip like a length
of emasculated firehose.
I read the whole story twice.
The onscreen photograph withers,
collapses in wasted pixels.
Thousands of miles away
and limpid with crossed horizons
this little disaster defines me
from the neck down, kinking itself
in my sorriest organs. Crimes
like this fail to deter the stars
from their rush toward the farthest
edge of limitless nothing.
Like William Blake's crucifixion,
featuring a tree, not a cross,
the world exerts a cruelty
that from some angles looks like joy.
And you in your woolen distance
refuse to acknowledge the space
I've tried to occupy, a silence
peculiar to certain mountaintops
where the wind's too proud to blow.
Not that you would choke a swan
or even me, given the chance.
But when I phone, your voice fades
in a thousand shades of umber,
and not a single word coheres.
Somewhere a cat coughs up a shard
of mouse. A child cries in sleep,
hopeless. Police have questioned
the swan killer and gone away,
leaving the corpse on the lawn
where dogs will pick it apart.
William Doreski recently returned to Boston after years of teaching at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His 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.