Reeking of the Equinox The sour breath of trash cans overflows into the park. The rain has depleted our moods. Still masked against contagion, people loom at each other and shout their differences, promising war. We can’t eat this anger although it barbecues the air between us. The riverbank buckles and coughs up mud from the bottom of its heart. If we could be so generous we could resettle our politics in a fresh landscape brimming with proto-Scandinavian neat. But the buzz-saw of rhetoric with cartoonish fervor hacks a ditch a mile deep to sever this neighborhood from that one, where garden gnomes have revolted and taken the taxpayers hostage. We should rescue them from looming abuse of their meager paychecks, but they would sneer and fail to thank us. How did we get so disparate? Something evil in the trash cans refuses to die. Something reeking of the equinox, objecting to the early arrival of dark. We can’t read each other’s mask but suspect a broad complicity. The river stumbles along, sad gray and teary. Too cold to wade, too wide even for children to leap. The stink of uncollected trash represents debris trapped in us, making us too heavy to float.
Dreams of Beautiful Cities Street patterns I dreamt last night wouldn’t fit into Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Delhi, or Cape Town. You would need a clean white plat to map them, and several bald spots on the planet to accommodate the earthwork to render them real. We all dream of beautiful cities, starlit palaces and neon dives where couples exchange genetics without the faintest hint of shame. Railroads bundled like wiring, marble facades unscarred by mold. Housing of antiseptic plastics from chemical plants that never pollute or burst into flames. You often report such cities erupting like fungus in places no one would ever look for them. You dwell on and in their villas, townhouses, luxury apartments— the upper levels of construction. But I dream of the layout, plumbing, the underground cables, the poured concrete vaults of the subways. I dream at this level because I wanted to be a city planner until I realized that cities refuse to be planned. Lagos, London, Cairo, New York. They grow from seed and sprawl. China believes its new cities are planned, but they’ll run riot, grow weedy and rank as cities and people do. Our lifelines are shorter now than the avenues I mapped last night. Still, we can walk the length of them from downtown to wooded suburbs and explore the quieter side streets and learn how the built world smothers the natural one, beginning with the dross inside our heads.
Pattern is Purpose Watching Canada geese paddle across the fly pond convinces me that pattern is purpose. Why else would the ripple of their wake mime the wind-response of pines and the shiver of naked lovers? On this lithographed afternoon the geese are unafraid of me, but prefer the far shore where there’s no bench to seat me for a Zen moment or two. No reckless lovers, either, although one drab evening I glimpsed sleek bodies parsing each other while trout bubbled up for mayflies. The mind settles easily here— the pond almost perfectly round, the plantation of red pines planted in strict ranks, the geese half-tame. Centered in weight I distribute through my carefully seated self, I try to honor distinctions among the non-human elements— the geese, the water, the texture although not the stance of the pines. Only another human presence could further refine this scenery. But I always come here alone to avoid startling even simple life forms like trout and insects and in winter the snow-ghosts that glide so gently over the eye.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He recently retired after many years of teaching at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent book of poetry is Stirring the Soup (2020). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.