William Doreski ~ Three Poems

The Scitico Water Tower

Looming black beside the railroad,
the Scitico water tower
shad­ed and shield­ed my childhood
from too much sun and puberty.
Dreaming of a rail­road life,
obso­lete before I was born,

kept me pleas­ant­ly infantile.
The water tow­er bled water
fed by a pipe from the Scantic,
dammed for a for­mer woolen mill
now a plas­tics research firm.
The water didn’t drip but poured

for years, erod­ing the roadbed.
The dark old steel-band­ed staves
bulged like an errant pregnancy.
In sum­mer I stood near the leak
to cool myself while waiting
for the dai­ly train to Springfield.

A few box­cars, a huff­ing diesel,
a brake­man flag­ging down traffic.
No one saw me hop the freight
with a dol­lar for a bus ticket
home at the close of the workday.
My rail­road life end­ed when

the water tow­er burst in the night,
the flood slop­ping back to the river.
Then I became too self-aware
to day­dream about the railroad
and fol­lowed the pat­tern of my peers—
sweat­ing for fifty cents an hour

hang­ing shade tobac­co in sheds,
then laz­ing with friends in the dusk.
Like the obso­lete water tower
I leaned into the world and gasped
as the runoff flowed unabated,
oblique­ly drag­ging me along.


Smiles of the Trees

The clean-cut smiles of the trees
this morn­ing may deceive you.
The cli­mate no longer accounts
for itself. The white churches
in every vil­lage are shedding
their expen­sive paint jobs, cries
of blue jays a form of applause.
By the pond, a woman seated
and read­ing a book you wrote

or meant to write and nev­er did.
I can’t read the title from here.
But her face rum­ples, the smile
of the trees fades into a frown.
Don’t blame your­self. The facts
rust because they’re cheap metal.
The sky is just a sky, boulders
relics of the Ice Age, houses
tart­ed up by millionaires

still leak­ing at every seam.
Well-dis­closed argu­ments soar
into places bats can’t discover
even when dusk turns oblique.
You want to ask that woman whose
unpub­lished book she’s reading,
but you fear the hon­est answer.
Let’s leave this scene digesting
itself. Let’s drop in at the bank

and see if they still sell money.
Let’s share a last iced latte
before the pond flops over
to show its grub­by undercoat
in mem­o­ry of a world that wasn’t.
Only we can tru­ly read books
we haven’t writ­ten, the smiles
and frowns of autum­nal trees
lac­ing our moment of grandeur.


Seasons of Seasons

Autumn reveals its undercoat
to the indif­fer­ence of the rain.
You pre­fer this plain surrender.
You’ve nev­er approved of April
with its san­i­tary buds popping.
You despise the warp of July

sprin­kled with inef­fi­cient seeds.
We nev­er agree on dimensions
of the house we want to construct
against the bluff pre­vail­ing winds.
We rarely meet Walt Whitman
walk­ing off his sober nightmares.

We haven’t seen Emily Dickinson
for years, her pale and flim­sy dress
flut­ter­ing like a Confederate flag
defy­ing every­thing we believe.
The same old moon illuminates
moments so dis­tinct they refuse

script­ing or scrip­ture, the sighs
of hero­ines sex­u­al­ly tainted.
Those are oak and maple leaves,
you claim, beech, larch, and hickory.
They aren’t the moan­ing of women
or the grunt­ing of evil men.

They’re pages torn from a book
no one is lit­er­ate enough to read.
You glance at a word or two then
turn your back on the river
that swal­lows every truth and lie
to anneal in its mud­dy dark.


William Doreski has pub­lished poems in Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, Yale Review, and many oth­ers. His lat­est col­lec­tion is Venus and Jupiter. He has a doc­tor­ate from Boston University.