William Doreski, 1/18/2010
Current Occupation: teacher
Former Occupation: factory line operator
Contact Information: William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in 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, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge.
Not the capitol of Wisconsin
but a small town on a ridge
overlooking a marshy river.
A college sprawls along the main street,
a jawful of mountains gnashing
on the horizon. A tavern
crowded with old men speaking
fluent Canadian although
we’re far south of Canada.
We drink two pints of local brew
then stroll north past a tower
of colored glass, a concrete gym,
and a plain brick classroom building.
Clapboard New England-style houses
hold their ground. Two-car garages
reveal men working on old cars
that should’ve died in the Eighties.
We reach the north end of the village
where spruce woods creep down to the road
and the smell of the river thickens.
The light fails. The far line of mountains,
east beyond the marshland, purples
like anger. No one has followed us
but we’re not alone. The sidewalk
ends at the forest. Not a house,
nothing beyond but asphalt curving
out of sight. We cross and return,
the glass tower gaudy with lights,
the classrooms coughing up students,
the tavern spewing drunks. The men
still work on their junky old cars
and their wives bring them coffee
in cracked mugs stolen from diners.
We name the town like a mantra:
Madison, Madison, Madison.
The sloping ridge looks ready
to slide right into the river,
collapsing the narrow village
and crushing all its citizens.
But the storefronts glow with confidence,
books, flowers, groceries, liquor,
cameras, computers, sweaters, and ties.
We shrug off the urge to browse
and keep moving forward like sharks,
trying to say ahead of the dark
that otherwise will consume us.