Empty sockets in the forest,
a pair of them fringed with moss
and hemlock, greasy water
still as quartz. Approaching
with shy little footsteps feels
like trolling for a kiss. Too bad
the pools aren’t deeper. No way
for Narcissus to drown in eighteen
inches of melt. Staring through
what should be my reflection
I’m facing Lara facing me
with her sad geometric smile.
As I kneel in the leaf mold
she reaches from the water and grips
my arms and braces me against
myself. When I said “trolling
for a kiss” I didn’t mean hers,
a smut of kerosene, but something
lavished from the budding trees
or lilting from a wood-thrush.
She reads my doubt and withdraws,
receding through the rotting muck.
I rise and examine the second,
identical sinkhole. Here I catch
myself peering through myself,
the way I’m supposed to. A fizz
of white hair, glasses cockeyed
on a thick peasant nose, an image
half-canceled by leaf rot and twigs
and framed by a mossy rim sprouting
the first brown mushrooms of the year
and the boughs of hemlock saplings
careless as the average caress.
Efficient as a Clipboard
Oily runoff smears the concrete floor.
Splintered pallets try to snag us.
We’re browsing structures to convert
to studios for metal sculptors
and other space-hungry artists.
You in your sleek green T-shirt
would shame the bravest attempt
at erotica, but breezing
through this dusky brown vacancy
you’re efficient as a clipboard
as you calculate expenses
for the foundation you represent.
I tag along, splashing through puddles
with adolescent glee, feeling
too elegant and streamlined
for you to easily leave behind
the way you did two decades ago
in the noir of Los Angeles
where we authored a script you sold
for a million you refused to share.
Now you’re smoother than a gemstone,
the million spent on men too sly
to remain too long in your shadow,
and you’ve recruited me to follow
your firm but delicate footfall
through the ruins of America.
Your T-shirt clings like a debt
and your blue jeans assume a life
of their own. We slog through rubble
and laugh away the cant and orgies
of lives we shouldn’t have tried to lead,
the rat-smell nasty and sweet
and the roof so pinholed with leaks
the daylight spackles through it
like a child’s idea of stars.
End of a turgid day. The bookshop
closes and Meagan emerges,
stripped to the waist, greasy with sweat.
She mounts her Harley and strokes
the fuel tank, then mops herself
with a rumpled flannel shirt.
I observe that a motorcycle's
a highly personal possession.
Buttoning the shirt, she agrees,
and tells me that in childhood
she so despised her body
that she wanted to be a machine,
wanted to be manufactured
of aluminum, brass, and steel,
with cooling fins, stainless exhaust,
and a fuel tank big as the Ritz.
Now her labors in the bookstore
have earned this embodiment
of her fantasy, and she intends
to merge with it, if possible.
By the way, would I like a ride?
I hop on back, and the Harley
roars like the blinded Cyclops.
We jolt into gear and I grip
Meagan's waist and the three of us
become a single object.
Raving through city traffic,
we map a route no mortal
could follow, then climb the ramp
to the expressway. The miles pass
like pages of the bible. Deep
in the suburbs, Meagan points the bike
into a patch of woods and stops.
We fall off the motorcycle
and lie panting and satisfied,
convinced that such pleasure will warm us
and sexually after we've died.
©2008 by William Doreski
William Doreski's most recent collection of
poetry is Another Ice Age. He has published three critical studies,
including Robert Lowell's Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, and
reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review,
Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review,
Modern Philology, Antioch Review, and Natural Bridge.