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unpublished book she’s reading,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.