A Struck Moose
A struck moose slumps in the grass.
A cop prepares to shoot it.
Thick hairy men are quarreling
over the rack. We pass by
this tableau with a shudder.
Although this accident occurred
while we were eating breakfast
with our conscience in abeyance,
everyone who drives a weapon
gross enough to topple a moose
must accept a sliver of blame.
We should give up driving and walk
everywhere, facing the world
with our rumpled old faces
scrubbed like copper-bottom pans.
Remember the she-moose and calf
that stepped from the marsh behind
our house in Fitzwilliam? You’d been
to northern Maine and back without
a sighting: yet this pair appeared,
impressing tracks in the mud that lasted
until the snow fell that November.
As Thoreau learned in the wild,
moose move so quietly through
the forest we feel embarrassed
by our noisy human culture
and impose a hush on ourselves.
That huge hurt creature, mountain
of meat and hide and bone, is doomed.
Its pending death rebukes us
with the enormity of life
strapped to us like backpacks,
heavy with our common cause.
Old Paper Maps
The storefronts on Boylston rumple
as the low sun prowls the sky.
We walk from the Common to the Fens
and back again, dragging our guilt
like sacks of potatoes. These days
slogging toward winter remind us
how shallow our breathing became
when we met in our dusty childhood.
We should have concealed each other
in some desperate Asian landscape
where farmers scratch at the earth
without penetrating the surface.
We should have hidden the bodies
where we would forget to find them
even in the final judgment.
Remember when we descended
to Hades and met famous people
we were foolish enough to admire?
Remember the ballgame at Fenway
when a Yankees fan died of angst
and we had to step over the corpse?
We should have shucked Boston and moved
to New York where we’d feel taller.
Instead, we crouched in the dark
of our basement apartment and claimed
every deduction, paying no tax
but fearing the knock on the door.
Now we walk the long gray street,
averting our eyes and recalling
the man who placed empty boxes
on the corners where Mass Ave
intersects, spooking the cop
who directed morning traffic.
Soon our spirits will terminate
in boxes smaller than those, the crush
of the cosmos severing our parts
and scattering our spent days
amid so much annual leaf-fall
dispersed like old paper maps.
Art with a Capital T
Woods at the edge of a marsh.
Someone has placed a bookcase
of varnished maple, shelves
vacant but expectant. Also
a slab of plywood on the ground
with a large plastic jug, a wire
device of unknown purpose,
and an unused bar of soap.
The jug has a pink stopper,
the plywood is filthy with mildew.
Discovering this installation
far from the nearest house
confirms that art is everywhere.
You order me to photograph it
before coming rain can spoil it.
But this isn’t something the Louvre
would hanker for. A narrow board
lies beside it with “Free” spray-painted,
so this is only discarded junk,
not the clever arrangement
we saw from the corners of our eyes.
Still, I snap a couple of pictures
to hang in the MFA, the Tate,
the Met, or Wadsworth Atheneum
when the curators aren’t looking.
Then all would agree that art
with a capital T has arrived
in woods at the edge of a marsh
in Harrisville, New Hampshire—
blossoming in the autumn when
people add worn-out belongings
to landscapes too plain to admire
without a touch of culture.
Dottie at Seventy-Five
She wasn’t a high-school beauty
but fit a slot that otherwise
would have gone unoccupied.
Now she thrives with vowels intact.
She knifes into my dream life
and demands I help her shop
in our stainless local market
for gourds, pumpkins, Indian corn.
Halloween has passed with legends
unfolded like party favors.
November reeks of brown rot.
Dottie with her two dimensions
slips through aisles of produce
with her blonde outlook perfected
by seventy years of scheming.
I avoided her in youth because
punk bikers thought her darling.
Their premature tattoos read
“Dottie” on liver-colored hearts.
She never married because
those surly male egos deflated
into poverty tinted shades
of gray that didn’t flatter her.
Now she’s a sketch or diagram
of the person I knew. My dream
is no longer mine but hers—
the gourds, pumpkins, Indian corn
heaped in the cart to decorate
her cottage for the coming winter.
I’m to share her space and treasure
her paper-thin body the way
I’d treasure a page of Shakespeare.
I’m glad to help her in old age, [stanza break]
but worry that lacking a third
dimension she’ll blow away
in the parking lot, leaving me
not quite bereft but befuddled
with handfuls of clumsy dream shards
and no safe place to discard them.
Sea Rise in the City
When I return to redbrick Boston
after dawdling for years in the ‘burbs,
the Charles basin has broadened
and the Back Bay streets brim over.
Snug in Wellies, I trek up Beacon
to high ground near the state house.
The gilded dome looks old and cheap.
The male delegates’ trousers bag
and sag and the women clench
themselves in dull and unchic wool.
Law can’t halt the advancing sea.
Soon the slop will deepen
and no one will be wading to work.
Small boats will suffice for a while,
but storms will crash through windows
and render even the skyscrapers
crude and obsolete as Stonehenge.
Why have I returned to the scene
of my favorite unsolved crimes?
The top floor windows where
my marriage choked itself to death
still wink with afternoon sun.
The basement flat where someone
unbuttoned herself to crush me
has drowned in illimitable salt.
The corner where I speared a thug
with an umbrella still grieves,
although the storefronts are blank.
But from the height where Shaw’s
gray bas-relief still functions,
Boston looks almost sane enough
to revive me from the stupor
of forty years. The drowned trees
of the Public Garden still stand,
but the ghost I dread most swims
dolphin-style in the shallows,
as if no grave heartbreak looms.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.