William Doreski's work has appeared in various electronic and print journals and in several collections, most recently City of Palms (AA Press, 2012).
Strait of Magellan
Snow-mountains shrug off the sky
and slope right down to the sea.
At the blunt edge of a glacier,
blue ice prisms a hundred feet high
butt up to the iron gray water.
Easier to sail around the Horn
than tack and veer in these narrows,
but I wanted to see the mountains
slop against the channel, wanted
to feel Tierra del Fuego
nestle against the mainland
as I sail my one-man ketch
from Atlantic to Pacific
without a terrible jolt between.
I’d send an email, a postcard,
a telegram, but I’m long past
Puntas Arenas and tacking
with both hands on the tiller,
both hands also working the boom,
the radio cackling with static
and the depth finder clanging.
Fifty-three degrees, thirty-three
minutes, eighty-one seconds south,
seventy-two degrees latitude.
Lines of sight fluster as clouds lower
in a tumble of shadows that cast
on the surface a complexity
unreadable with compass, sextant,
or GPS. The mountains refuse
my gaze. I wish you were here,
but I have to admit I’ve enjoyed
sailing this far alone. The shades
of gray mate in heavy chop,
and the glacier grins a toothy blue
that even in your brightest mood
you couldn’t begin to eclipse.
The woman has swallowed nails
and died of perforations.
Her body looks bloodless, flimsy
as papyrus. Her appetite
ascends to shiver in the sky
on a flex of metallic wings.
You claim you didn’t know her,
but she collapsed on your threshold
clutching a suicide note
washed blank by rain. Your sister?
Your cousin? Roommate from college?
The police don’t care. They swab
your granite stoop and photograph
the carcass slumped with eyes rolled
and skirt hitched over scrawny thighs.
Everyone knew her lover had bent
himself backward over a bridge
and dropped a hundred feet to smear
his brains on a basalt outcrop.
Such actions tend to be catching,
like the flu that’s making the rounds
of our dearest friends. Not viral
but digital, this flu consists
of curses instead of sneezes,
kisses instead of coughs. It cures
itself with a poultice of gin.
This nail-eating corpse requires
explanation more than pity,
but when you discovered it
you chuckled like a songbird
and phoned me with a tremor
of wit in your voice. The cops
bag and haul it away without
bothering to write down your name.
They know that swallowing nails
to pierce one’s abdomen’s a sign
of beatification, not murder;
and that a couple like us, stainless
in watery October sunlight,
lacks the faith to understand.