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[Poetry] Two Poems by William Doreski

Updated: May 10, 2023

Some Kind of Retirement Income

Our shabby little beachside souvenir shop cringes with shame. The T-shirts, pennants, postcards, and junk jewelry we offer would embarrass the coolest huckster. The hot days ripen like mangoes.

Bikinis flower and fluoresce. Regardless of race or religion everyone tans to a painterly shade of whatever color they began with. You hide out in the back room cooking the books,

hoping we can sell this dump for a profit. I face down tourists from bristling suburbs whose children love to shoplift, who rarely buy without haggling over the fifty-cent postcards,

which should be three for a dollar, they claim. Surf at my back all day graphs on the sand glib arguments about why the world should end. We should give up peddling this crap and open a clam bar. A license

to sell cold beer would solve our debts, while frying clams, scallops, crab cakes would relax my old digestive tract like uncoiling an angry rattler. Too much work, you say? Maybe after closing I’ll wade in the surf

at dusk, then lie in the sand where the sun-warm bikinis lay and let myself evolve enough to rise into the star-struck distance with a wingspan broad enough to cuddle the entire planet.

Boulevard by the Sea

You’re driving badly today.

On the boulevard by the sea

you hit every pothole and dash

your Mercedes to scrap. On foot,

exposed to the midday glare,

our bodies feel gelatinous:

they no longer seem tailored

to our private or public needs.

Why did you drive so carelessly

with your comfortable, expensive car?

You seemed to aim for every pothole,

and when the wheels fell off

I thought I detected a little smile.

Now you amble like a pea hen.

Nothing of romance, no hint

of Rimbaud on the dusty paths

of Africa, nothing of Thoreau

dead-reckoning cross-country

to the east slope of Wachusett.

Only your usual duck-walk

swinging along despite the heat,

despite the slackening of flesh

that afflicts us equally. The sea

behind a screen of wild roses

gnashes and mutters to itself

without the slightest earthly concern.

Sometimes we glimpse surf curdling

in foam and bathers splashing.

We could descend the few steps

and lie in the sand and roast

ourselves medium rare. But the wreck

of your car by the roadside

would rebuke us, and police

would insist you have it towed away

to discourage others from walking

in this self-digesting heat.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Dogs Don’t Care (2022). His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.


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