William Doreski


(after Hiroshige)

Erected at odd angles, trees
march down to flank the sea.

Strange thought flourishes
under flags of windy foliage.

A horse bearing too much burden
staggers along with snorts and sighs.

This village sparked a weepy
Kabuki play about a hooker

named Tora, whose love for her child
and whose subsequent grief inspired

the yellow rain of this print.
A drab and somber field sports

a few rolls of hay. Otherwise
that thin rain has washed away

everything that isn’t gray-blue
or Wehrmacht green, and flattened

the sky like a curtain closing
on that cruel play’s last performance.

A Beach on the Baltic

Shingle as gray as the water.
Low but perfect scallops of surf
look painted by an amateur.

Despite the breeze from Denmark
a few bathers tucked in T-shirts
wade along the crusty shore,

precise as scouting herons.
A green pail for trash, a few sticks
and a string of wire to protect

the dunes from being trampled.
I don’t know how I got here
to watch the wind combing tufts

of grass and sparking curses
in German, Polish, and steeply
accented English. Alone

with the ruled horizon, I wait
for the emerging sun to lilt
the dull gray into navy blue

and cheer the people splashing
in the pebble-bottomed shallows.
A man claims the surf will rise

as the tide comes in. But no one
sports a surf board, and we’re all
too fat and old to catch a wave.

The few thin streaks of clouds
form a vanishing-point vee
pointed toward Copenhagen.

If I lie flat enough on the beach
maybe that moot sky will waft me
from this oversimplified seascape

into a place of verticals,
so that when I’m upright again
I won’t be overexposed.


(after Hiroshige)

Fording the shallow river
doesn’t frighten or daunt me.
Look at these men rafting
valuables across the Sakawa
without the slightest hesitation.

The sandy banks look easy
to mount. The mountains crouched
bestial in the distance don’t object.
The reedy green landscape offers
little in the way of shelter.

I step into the easy current,
and wallow waist-deep toward
the distant castle: three gray
conical stone towers cuddled
at the foot of the Hakone peaks.

Those who have already landed
ignore my clumsy splashing
and rough American humor,
their sticks and poles and heavy packs
beached for a moment of rest.


(after Hiroshige)

We crowd through a gateway in hope
of catching low tide and wading
to Enoshima where an obscure
but authentic deity resides.

The flimsy bridge to the village
resembles all the other arched
structures along this route but
crosses undrinkable salt.

The houses beyond have sealed
themselves against passersby,
and the famous Buddhist temple
looks stilted among the treetops,

an odd way to build except
to repel casual visitors.
Note those exaggerated stairways,
like a game of Chutes and Ladders.

The island lies somewhere beyond
the temple. The sea-horizon
lies so flat and white we agree
that it looks like a spill of milk.


William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His poetry, essays, reviews, and fiction have appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent books are A Black River, A Dark Fall, a poetry collection, and Train to Providence, a collaboration with photographer Rodger Kingston.

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