At the Grave of Randall Jarrell
The clunk and rasp of building
a wood fire distracts but warms me.
You love the grunt and groan of chores,
talking to the cats, paying bills
we can’t afford to pay. Meanwhile
I’m picturing a pair of cypress
almost doubled over with ice
in a North Carolina graveyard.
A young woman shakes off the shards.
They clatter onto the grave
of Randall Jarrell, beloved
husband and father. Not named
as the author of “The Death
of the Ball Turret Gunner,”
whose pulped remains still linger
in every deliberate reader’s mind.
The wood stove hisses and smirks.
Jarrell walked into the path
of an oncoming car and died
in a crush and rupture of parts.
The woman sprinkling fragments
of ice on his grave has grown old
enough to measure the distance
from here to North Carolina
in years instead of mileage.
You don’t know her but sometimes
when I’m lying alone in bed
I picture her pouring a cup
of coffee with a grand flourish
she learned while living in the South.
You’d like her sense of humor,
but you wouldn’t linger at the grave
of Jarrell for a moment, too busy
folding and refolding dimensions
and trimming the hours to fit.
The Brow of Kilimanjaro
Dreaming of the Serengeti
with its brittle grasslands and roars,
its canvas tourist cottages
and bold red plastic lawn chairs
from which to watch the zebras,
I snag on Kilimanjaro
drifting in the corner of my eye.
That pert volcano, long deceased,
offers a view of rumpled landforms
I’d like to pin all over me.
But lying under a quilt
in New Hampshire, I’m too small
to inhabit such a distance,
too disengaged to hear the lions
triumph over herbivores.
The clock ticks fake electric ticks,
the refrigerator grumbles
as its cold gases circulate.
To grow this faun-tinted culture
the creatures of Olduvai Gorge
rose from their fossils and spread
gospels to slant the sunlight
and populate the airless moon.
Should I believe myself even
when the mirror reverses both
the part in my hair and the map
of the life I’ve so far lived?
Should I trust the handshakes of gods
honored only in museums?
The brow of Kilimanjaro
looms over me as I doze.
The big cats prowl and prowl until
a pawful of claws provokes
my latent self. So I rise at last
and wade through the tall dry grass
to the safety of the kitchen
where I feed domestic shorthairs
canned elephant, zebra, giraffe,
and bask in the gleam of their greed.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall. His website is williamdoreski.blogspot.com.