Bicycling downstream on back roads
from Walpole to Keene I feel
as supple as well-worn suede.
With grave ancient empathy
the brown hills flex in the breeze.
Brooks twinkle in gutters of stones.
The roads pour down through valleys
scraped by glaciers, smoothed by age
to resemble flesh folded on flesh
after acts of bristling love.
I remember everything: turtles
basking in the emerald marsh,
herons lancing the ooze for newts,
minnows shivering like chain mail.
That was the moment I became
the self that bicycles downhill
at terrible speed, lathering
shadows that surf across landscapes
with reckless but actual purpose.
I haven’t plied that marsh in decades;
but as I flash past wooden houses
that withhold their grim expressions
I free myself from scalded cities
and silt-encrusted suburbs
of the adulthood I’ve never earned,
and let a single note fly.
No one hears me or cares if
I crash into a friendly boulder
dumped from an ice sheet ages
before I fully evolved. Knit
and purl of the last bird call
caresses the flight I’ve taken
from one lost town to another—
the roads left clutching their scripts
and the small uncharted places
fulfilled for one sunny moment
while treefrogs gather their breath.
Valediction with a View of Vermont
When you gaze against the grain
and glimpse Vermont across the river,
geography you learned in school
flutters overhead in textbook pages
torn and folded into angel wings.
You enjoy this raw sensation
of snow blowing in your face
and winter birds creaking in flight.
You want the hills of Vermont
to mate with New Hampshire landscape
and birth a world that’s large enough
to favor your children in case
the old world devours itself
in carbon dioxide and war.
The river flexes its single
and fully convincing muscle
and passes under twin bridges
painted an economical green.
The only color in a snow scene,
these links to Brattleboro grin
like two mouthfuls of dentures
about to risk a messy kiss.
One is abandoned; the other
carries double its share of traffic.
On the Vermont side the highway ducks
under a black railroad overpass
and ends in a traffic circle.
You stare from your back yard
into a distance sculpted in grays
no human voice can articulate.
But you remember John Donne
keening into the dark of the year,
and you understand why he posed
in a shroud the color of weather
before his final debt came due.
William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught at Emerson College, Goddard College, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent books are Water Music and Train to Providence. williamdoreski.blogspot.com