Three-stress Accentual Verse
heavyset man in his thirties
last seen wearing a tutu
at the cigar store on Main.
In the sighs of early light
I find him weeping on the steps
before the Unitarian church,
his unshaven expression raw
and splintered. He can't accept
his gender role in Swan Lake,
can't stop crying when the music
sizzles through those private organs
Mother warned him not to share.
Why still in costume? He fears
the village might think him sane
and laugh him back to his trailer
on rented land in the woods.
He hopes to haunt our dreams,
dancing through the episodes
we'd otherwise recall in shame.
Police arrive. They shove me
off the steps and surround the man
and beat him bloody with sticks.
Arrested for wearing a tutu
in the presence of the Flag,
the ballerina agrees to weep
in court and beg for mercy.
After the cops drive away
with their trophy I wander
to the diner to read the paper
and find a photo of the captured
ballerina above the fold.
The diner crowd groans and chuckles.
A theme from Swan Lake plays in my head,
and I drink my coffee, sure
that Tchaikovsky would rather be dead.
Given up Piracy for You
given up piracy
for you. No more high speed
interceptions of glossy yachts,
no more shakedowns of brokers,
lawyers, realtors, or surgeons.
No more sinkings of cocaine
or heroin-laden trawlers,
their gangster crews left bobbing
in life jackets in the chop.
I never feared the Coast Guard
since my boat could outrun them;
but I fear your disapproval
and would rather go hungry
than incite your post-Christian angst.
Yes, I sold my boat to that ex
President in Kennebunkport,
although it's too fast for him
to handle. Let him hire a crew
and rave up and down the coast
as if scrawling broad signatures
on the bottom line of the sea.
You feared that piracy would lead
to accumulations of great wealth,
but I never profited much.
A wallet full of tens, a pair
of Zeiss binoculars, a fancy
GPS device. I left the yachts
wallowing in outrage and let
their greedy skippers live. Only
a few drug smugglers may have drowned
in my wake. Please don't judge me
harshly, I've given it up
for you, disarming myself [
and folding my Jolly Roger
to use as a handkerchief
if we ever have to cry.
balls of matted rootlets,
parasitic and clammy white,
Indian-pipe so pleased Dickinson
that Mabel Todd painted it
to emboss on the cloth binding
of the poet's collected letters.
As you kneel to stroke the waxy stems
to see them blacken from handling
I recall that Mohicans derived
eye-lotion from part of this plant.
Was it from roots? Stem? The flower
that eventually crowns each column?
Much as I like this morbid growth
I fear that touching it might spread
the concept if not the fact
of decay. You laugh because
I keep my distance, cringing
as I watch. Nothing frightens you;
nothing in nature disturbs you
the way your failing memory does,
or your lapses into the Polish
you can't remember learning
as a child. Every June this species
ratchets up beside the driveway,
this corpse-plant or ghost-flower
lacking chlorophyll and leaves;
and every spring we admire the way
it grows erect with fruiting
in honor of the rotted matter
on which all fresh effort feeds.
William Doreski, US
lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His most recent collection
of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published
three critical studies, including Robert Lowell's Shifting
Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, 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.