William Doreski

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and teaches at Keene State College. 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.

Join the Navy: Ask Me about It

The bunting looks emaciated,
hanging there with stars above
and stripes dangling. Two desks
leer across a gap too wide
for puberty to negotiate.

Through the open door we spot
feet atop one desk, ankles
crossed for emphasis. The navy
goes to sea, out to sea, far away
to sea, but the tides don’t reach
this dusty office, don’t ebb and leave
bony, pebbled décor to sport
in ripples along the carpet.

We won’t join the navy today.
We won’t join the navy tomorrow.
We’ll join when the icecaps melt
and these desks buoy on gray chop
and the ankles uncross themselves
and the latent seaman, happy
at last, swims upright and salutes.

 

 

 

Featured photo by: Bryan Schutmaat

The Bridge at Trinquetaille

(Arles, 1888)
Long stone slabs, a flight of steps
leading from a roughly cobbled street.
Then a narrower stairway flanked
by thick concrete walls, twenty-six
risers to a modern steel bridge,
gray stringers trussed above
a swirl of white space. Figures,
van Gogh’s usual stocky blobs,
muddle up and down and along
the bridge, their errands obscure,
undelineated. Only
a red protective wrapping
about a sprig of foreground sapling
violates the blue-green-gray
of the wholly architectural
composition. To live in so
rigid a scene would humble
the grossest of Christians. The cracked
eggshell of sky allows no god
to peer at the people hunching
along their determined routes.
Yet van Gogh drew this freehand,
and in the reckless execution
he allowed his composition
to escape him, slurring and flexing
and finally escaping into
the boughs of a tree barely glimpsed
beyond the arch on the right,
the only natural perspective.