If the Lake Speaks Aloud
The green sky after the rain
looks shivery as a painting
finished after the artist’s death.
You drive slowly past the lake
so we can scout for loons before
they flock to the sea for winter.
Nothing resounds. No accents,
noble or common, no rhythms
to score this windless moment.
The lake lies so flat you’d think
walking on it easy enough
to render anyone godly.
But the undertone of decay
has inflected our language
so leaky plumbing, short circuits,
and other small disturbances
line up in order of expense
we in retirement can’t afford.
So we’re silent, afraid to name
anything but loons and lake
and green sky tall and shuddering.
If only the water could gather
its evolutionary powers
and speak from its ponderous depth.
If only the bass boats, sailboats,
canoes, and catamarans edged
against the shore would swarm out
to the middle of the lake and claim
that bottomless gray absence
to refresh and enlighten us.
We can’t finance a water view,
but from the road we sense a depth
nursing collective intelligence
that could, if it flopped ashore,
reclaim everything we’ve achieved
and rename us after itself.
Dark Even Darker
Now I’m one of those people
found buried in bogs and preserved
by occult chemical means.
I think I like it down here.
Tobacco-brown shadows I cast
in the absolute dark flatter
and express me. Don’t dig for me.
If exposed to sunlight, I’d flake
and defoliate like parchment.
The grizzle of my face would shock
the living citizens, although
they voted one of my fellow
bog-people President and cheered
as he dismantled their sorry lives.
The peat and I have merged. No smell,
only a papery texture
to tease the senses back to life.
You’d like living in the bog
with me. You’d like the musing
of spirits that mingle here,
human, animal and vegetable
sifting through mutual grudges
against the self-deflated world.
We could be bride and groom again,
if we wanted to share ourselves
as we never did in the daylight.
We could flatten into one
dimension, then slip into dark
even darker than the bog-bottom
and salt our essence in a place
no one ever thought to inhabit.
Meanwhile skunk cabbage, pokeweed,
and hellebore will seed themselves
in memory of this dialogue.
And when the archaeologists
lean on their spades they’ll open
the claustrophobic place we’ve shared
and find nothing but our smiles.
A Blot, a Discoloration
Up a hundred-foot sand bank
to catch a view of the sacrifice,
I dig in with hands and feet
and claw a steep clean trough
to the forest looming above.
From here I can watch the mob
move soundless as water, hushed
as the great flood of my youth,
pushing the child to the site
of a fire ignited many years
before her birth. Hardly pubic,
she’s ripe for public harvest,
her rat-colored hair gangling
about her tears, her naked legs
flailing like oars. Sacrifice
to what entity? Reversion
to the old ways occurred so briskly
we had crushed a dozen witches
under rocks before I realized
these weren’t pages torn from books
but events with beginnings, middles,
and ends. The view from this height
like a glimpse of the sea eases me
into dreaming of lonely places
where nothing human troubles
the greenery: no crying children,
no gabble of telephones, no rash
of faith to undermine the senses.
The mob has reached the ash pit
and pushed the child to her knees.
I look as far away as the stars,
if daylight stars could occur;
and when I lower my gaze
a blot on the landscape rebukes
my distance, a discoloration
blinding when I shut my eyes.
William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (Splash of Red, 2018).