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by William Doreski

For a moment, rows of canned goods

in aisle four become the teeth

of something chewing at my heart.

Your'e chatting up our unemployed

baker friend, whose wool cap pulled

low on her forehead covers

scars of her latest lobotomy,

and act of psychic surgery

she performs on herself daily.

I sympathize with such grim

self-negation, but neither of you

have noticed how aggressive

the canned goods appear, how crisp

their labels, how toxic their contents.

Whatever is gnashing my heart

has been busy for many years.

But in this elongated moment

the fractured winter afternoon

oozes salts, acids, fats, additives,

and processed carbohydrates no one

can ingest without consequence.

I'd like to abandon this cart-full

of goods we can't afford and go home

and sulk with the cats and hope

the pain recedes like high tide.

Instead, leaving you engrossed,

I wander to aisle two and examine

labels on hundreds of bottles

of cheap wine from Australia,

Germany, California, France.

The warmth of the vineyard settles

inside me, relaxes the jaws

clenched around my favorite organ.

I return as the conversation

ends in a burst of laughter

that reminds me of Squire Dickinson

ringing the bells at two AM,

waking Emily and her sister,

so everyone in Amherst can see

the aurora borealis wrapping

the village in green flannel light.


by William Doreski

A row of historical houses:

simple clapboard confections

oozing a fragrance of ghost.

You want to pry them open

and parse them room by room from

the perspective of a deity.

An artist in three dimensions

could create exploded views,

but you don't want a rendering

in computer graphics, you want

to lift the actual lids and peer

with the power of a cyclops

into a stew of people rich

enough to maintain these large,

boxy, underrated spaces.

You imagine that their sex lives

assume the Puritan fervor

you caught for a moment of two

in the angst of adolescence.

Let's discuss this over latte

in the café where those same

rich citizens sit and gossip

in the same bright tones you've heard

in Boston, Paris, and Rio.

Let's avoid rehashing those nights

in old cars parked by the river.

Let's forget the string of murders

that tilted the village on edge

and ended without an arrest.

Maybe that killer, deep in age,

lives in one of these houses,

nursed by his middle-aged children

grown wealthy through investments.

No wonder you want to peer into

their rooms from a steep angle

that would reveal their psychic content.

No wonder your curiosity

has blossomed like a circus tent.

But I don't want to incite you.

Forget I brought up those murders

of half a century ago. The sweet

odor of ghost excludes violence—

everyone historic having died

in bed, smirking over lifetimes

spent more carefully than ours.


by William Doreski

Made of glass this morning,

I'm pleased that anyone can see

through me to the landscape beyond.

Being so fragile I take great care

walking up the post office steps,

and standing in line avoid

bumping old ladies clutching

parcels intended for grandkids.

The day sighs many great sighs.

It expects me to understand why

I'm made of glass this morning,

instead of rising in a fist

of stainless steel. The river

brims at the post office window.

It also is glass this morning.

If I stepped on it, tried to walk

its naked water, we'd collapse

into each other's shy embrace,

subject and verb uniting.

I reach the window to buy a stamp

but the clerk looks right through me

to the next person in line.

I cough to get his attention

but something inside me cracks

and I have to step aside and clutch

myself to myself to avoid

shattering all over the floor.

I'll mail my letter tomorrow

when I've reverted to simple flesh.

Today I'd better lie down somewhere

in the shade so I don't start a fire.

Somewhere in the damp old forest

where no one will step on me,

my utter transparency

plain as an artist's model,

too slick to exhibit shame.


William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His poetry, essays, reviews, and fiction 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 books are A Black River, A Dark Fall, a poetry collection, and Train to Providence, a collaboration with photographer Rodger Kingston. His website is

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