A color photograph reveals
a congeries of verticals
that challenge my perspective.
Doors and furniture collude
to reshape the space to frame
a painting of an arrogant
flower-trimmed woman in blue.
Maybe this photograph lies
as only photography can lie—
by imposing a point of view
that’s optical rather than human.
Viewing Michele’s studio
through this wrought image implies
that paintings and photos agree
to conspire against the senses.
I can’t be sure that I’m seeing
past half-opened doors to catch
the woman playing with her fan
or the small pastel landscape
resting on the neighboring shelf;
or whether the flattening effect
dislocates and confounds me.
I want to reach into the photo
and swing those doors shut to hide
the lack of depth that dismays me.
Yes, I take it personally, the smile
on that painting almost a sneer,
a shadow like a cat-tail
pointed at her pubic region,
the garland of roses draped
across her lap a mockery
of old-fashioned virginity,
which even in her time she scorned.
The other painting, on the left,
a little smear of landscape,
avoids troubling the troubled soul,
but the place it depicts looks shallow.
And what of that orange-yellow sky?
I turn away from the photo,
but exclamatory verticals
are everywhere, bracing themselves
against my fear of falling.
The Only Patriotic Poem
A massive American flag
flops from the sky to smother me.
Trapped under its meaty folds,
I phone for sympathy and someone
willing to desecrate it
by scissoring me free.
I wouldn’t have arranged this
fiendish allegory for myself.
I wouldn’t apply such colorful
acreage to merely make a point.
Although the drapery muffles sound
I can sense a crowd gathering.
In the style of a favorite novel,
people are expressing concerns
about letting a flag touch ground
and possibly soiling itself
in crumbs and smuts of debris.
I’m one of those crumbs and smuts;
but maybe no one knows a person
is smelting under this great crumple.
This return to original
illusion will foster debate
about our founders’ intentions.
But will I survive such manifest
cosmic fidgeting? Will I thrive
in prophesies of new republics
glistening with patriotic drool?
As I accustom to the dark
the voices become clearer, spiked
with partisan wrath. At last a man
opines that my suffering’s enough
to transcend myself forever.
He rouses the crowd to lift the flag
and let me crawl out from under.
As after a terrible illness
I find the daylight refreshed.
The crowd tries to fold the great flag,
but it tosses and struggles and lifts
on the wind, flapping upstream
into the impossible range of colors
from which hundreds of years ago
it first descended in dream.
William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in various 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.