William Doreski - "Dreams That Govern the World," "Your Frilly White Frock," and "No Such Things as Vampires."

Dreams that Govern the World

 

On my mother’s birthday a crow

grates in the pale August dawn.

Five thousand miles to the east

after wreaking general havoc

Russia withdraws troops and armor

from Georgia. I ought to visit

my mother, but I’d rather see

the Caucasus this morning, peaks

snow-tipped, the gray rock stoic

against a sky faintly soiled

by the stink of burning villages.

 

My mother is ninety-four. Nurses

prowl around her like cubs. Breakfast

will elevate her blood sugar

so an insulin shot will follow.

Then a morning group discussion

will engage her. She forgets me

between visits. Her mind is good,

better than mine, but even

in my childhood she forgot me,

leaving me wandering in stores,

letting me run away without

bothering to call the police.

 

The crow reiterates. I’ve never

learned to speak crow properly

or I’d respond by pursing

a cry into the treetops where

everything worth saying has long

ago been said. Russia’s quarrel

with Georgia won’t go away.

So often empires have collapsed

over trivia. My mother

will ride out the next war in ease,

sitting in front of her TV

and dozing so gently no ripples

will escape to trouble her own dreams

or those that govern the world.

 

 

Your Frilly White Frock

 

In your frilly white frock you look

as dainty as a showroom full

of Cadillacs. You’ve brought along

your latest boyfriend—curly, pale,

pleased with himself, but longing

for a single glimpse of you naked.

Not in this public place, you say,

but even after he departs

in tears you prefer to remain

in the museum, in this gallery

where van Gogh’s Starry Night rages

against the browsers pouting

from painting to painting in search

of the image that will solve them.

 

Van Gogh solves nothing. Your frock

solves nothing. A showroom full

of Cadillacs solves nothing.

The boyfriend returns with a fifth

of Scotch in a brown paper bag,

a peace offering. We occupy

one of those long upholstered benches

placed before a massive Rothko

in various shades of orange

and share the fifth back and forth

and coo, all three of us, and smirk

as though we liked each other.

 

If only you hadn’t worn that

silly frock like Veronica

in Le Petit Soldat. No wonder

fear of torture overtakes me

and I rise and leave the gallery,

leave your frock for your boyfriend

to fondle, leave you inside it

to suffer the indignities

that properly belong to it,        

and find myself on my knees

before a famous Picasso,

a crowd of school kids milling past,

their innocence only slightly

more alert to art than mine

 

 

No Such Thing as Vampires

 

You ask if I carry a gun.

Three: one with silver bullets,

one with blanks, one unloaded

to wave when I’m drunk. You laugh

because you don’t believe vampires

a greater threat than muggers.

 

But on steamy August evenings

the soft ground yields, and lovers

naked among the flowers learn

how easily they bleed. Shadows

that only vaguely resemble men

drape over the vulnerable parts

of the body, and the smell of blood

astonishes vacationers crouched

in lakeside cottages where pine logs

crackle on the fieldstone hearths.

 

You’ve heard these stores before:

the one-armed man who attacks

teenagers parked in the woods;

fiends who knife elderly couples

and scrawl messages in their blood;

dead gangsters who reappear

in the rearview mirrors of cars

in which they took their fatal rides.

Yet you don’t believe that vampires

lurch through moonlit scenery

with a living, insatiable thirst.

 

OK, I don’t carry guns.

I refuse to arm myself

against belief or disbelief

and never get drunk anymore.

No such thing as vampires, of course.

But if we get close in the night

and a shadow falls over us,

will you accept the bloodletting

or will you blame me for entering

the dark so frankly disarmed?

 

William Doreski’s work has appeared in numerous journals and several collections, most recently Another Ice Age (AA Publications, 2007)  His critical essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many academic and literary journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Yale Review, African American Review, and Natural Bridge.  Bill Doreski is professor of English at Keene College, New Hampshire.  

Posted on December 7, 2013 .