Winter 2007

Table of Contents - Vol. III, No. 4


Poetry    Essays    Fiction    Book Reviews

William Doreski


A Trip to the Postcard Shop

En route to the postcard shop
we pass through a narrow angle
with vertical clay walls one
thousand feet high. Traffic stalls
and we’re motionless with those red,
blue, gray walls leering above.

The clay weeps a dozen shades
of destiny. The moisture pools
in ditches breeding mosquitoes.
I can’t sit here behind the wheel
waiting to be crushed in clay
so let Jeff drive. A chortle

of engines, and traffic surges
and we exit the looming gulch.
Soon we reach Harrisville and park
at the postcard shop. Jeff browses
for postcards of the ‘39
World’s Fair and Carole discovers

a book on Atlantic turtles
and Sally examines an antique
reading glass bound in enameled brass.
I watch pedestrian traffic
through the dusty plate glass window
and dread returning through that slot

of wet clay. No other route
except a highway by a lake
that constantly overflows like
a bathtub drowning. I hate
that arrogant lake. Jeff crows
because he found a rare postcard.

Carole admires a turtle grinning
like a gravestone death’s head
and Sally has discovered a flaw,
a crescent moon embossed in
the depths of the reading glass.
Now we’re headed home. I’m driving

as insincerely as I can,
the clay defile looming ahead,
and I hope that when it collapses
the pastel weight of the clay
assures us we’re not merely dead
but safely and utterly erased.


Everyone Needs Both a God and a Goddess

Against the morning gray, no god
I’ve chosen will believe in me.
His face doesn’t shine like brass,
his benevolence doesn’t flow

like bourbon, his self-creation
doesn’t seem inevitable.
Maybe because you’re my goddess,
a dubious choice: the tinted fringe

of your hair framing a pucker
like a meteor crater, your grasp
of divine responsibilities
as primitive as a child’s.

How can I foster a god as rich
as the one the primal Christians
believed in habited the desert
of Judea, where scrolls attested

to his status? What could compete
with the sleepy wrinkles you offer
the most casual of lovers,
the one who empties your change jar

as he sneaks away at dawn?
Everyone needs both a god
and a goddess to prop on a high
shelf in the mind. But you exclude

the male principle, the warping
of your body so dizzy I weep
in its presence. The last god
I conjured refused to acknowledge

any role in your making, and lost
so much money shooting pool
I had to slip him twenty dollars
to bribe him to return to cloud-land

where all the fantasies dwell.
You deny that gods or even
goddesses can solve our daily lives;
but then your smile cuts my throat

and I collapse in a puddle
and passersby refer me
to the gods of their choice and soon
a healing of some sort occurs.

Then I’m framed for another day
like a portrait of an ancestor
whose sturdy, old-fashioned religion
never allowed him to laugh.


Spirit Box

In the secret locked back room
of a Beijing souvenir shop
I examine a small wooden box

in which one captures the spirit
of an insect and holds it hostage
against one’s own premature death.

You with your T’ang Dynasty smile
have brought me here to assess
my “cultural openness.” The goods,

though, seem identical to those
in the more public parts of the shop.
It’s you yourself you expect me

to assess. Your thin cotton dress,
block printed in greens and grays,
shivers as I consider packing

your spirit in one of the larger
black-lacquered boxes displayed
on a shelf on which a human skull

gnashes in permanent silence.
You lean into me with a weight
so abstract I’m sure I could lift

your whole body as easily
as shake your hand. Yet secret
as this room, locked more tightly

against the ignorance of strangers,
you so withhold yourself I step
aside and you crash to the floor,

weeping like a sunken battleship.
Carp in a large tank look startled;
but otherwise the goods look stoic,

indifferent to human drama.
Since you asked the proprietor
for the key I’m obliged to buy

something, perhaps a scrimshawed
bit of human bone. I help you
to your feet, and resolved now

you kiss me with a fervor learned
from trashy American films.
One of the lacquered boxes quakes

as your spirit conceals itself
inside. I’ll buy that box and maybe
as we sit over tea release you

into the sulfurous atmosphere
of Beijing’s crawling downtown
where you can regret yourself in peace.


© William Doreski


Poetry    Essays    Fiction    Book Reviews

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