Your Aspect Ratio & Other Poems by William Doreski

Still Shining

Slide on over here for some sweet poetry to fill a sunny afternoon! William Doreski’s work will have you hooked with his imagery and even give you a different perspective on the letter Z. Go take a look!

Your Aspect Ratio

Your aspect ratio has changed
again. Despite great distance,
you plump my screen with flesh

expressions I can’t dispute.
Now that you live in Paris,
where unfamiliar grays prevail,

you probably miss the harsh,
overheard consonants of grim
old politicians, whose slogans

erode the collective intellect
but leave glacial boulders shining.
I know you like to fondle vowels,

and prefer the ironed boulevards
to the hewn back roads of Vermont.
I know you’d rather not vote

in this season of dolorous choice,
so have elected to emigrate.
But why have you now expanded

to fill ninety degrees of vision
when in grisly adolescence
you couldn’t claim a high-school stage?

The creamiest lotions prevails
in Paris. I know that much about
Lumière’s grinning city.

You like that accent grave,
leaning like an old slate tombstone.
You like everything etched in tones

you can see and feel. But you hate
being seen and sensed over distance
too lovelorn to span without

a huge waste of jet fuel and fancy,
flying over waste lands framed
too vaguely for ratios to matter.

The Dream of the Blue Flower

Benjamin says that no one dreams
of the blue flower, blaue blume,
anymore. Dreams are shortcuts
to banality. Instead of opening
on wide blue horizons, they stall
on rusty gray-brown distance.

I never argue with Benjamin,
but last night I dreamt the same
blue flower dream that Novalis
or his persona dreamed, embracing
nature’s gaudiest sentiments,
which Thoreau rejected in favor
of close observation and basic
scientific mensuration.

I dreamt that the blue flower spoke
in that eerie language I caught
smoking aloud from the basement
of a ruined orange-brick textile mill
as my child-self prowled for salvage
on a bell-shaped August afternoon.

I have never understood a word
of this ghost speech, but flowers
sometimes whisper it when moonlight
insists on the primacy of myth
and the trickle of summer brooks
mimes the lisping of infants.

Yes, I overslept. The flower
tickled me into submission
so that I woke with a coating
of gray dust sifted from the dark.
Although I showered off that grit
its essence still lingers, a taste
of mineral I can’t extirpate
with my usual jaunty breakfast. [stanza break]

Novalis knew something other
than the blue flower, but kept it
to himself. He understood
how objects in the waking world
turn their dark sides toward dreams,
miming our secretive moon.

I also keep my dark side private,
not out of shame but expedience—
hoping that by culturing shadows
I’ll learn the blue flower language
and discover what the ghosts
were discussing in the ruins
while my child-self tingled with dread.


You think about the letter Z.
You wonder why it comes last,
why we pronounce it zee
while the British call it zed.

You like its aggressive angles,
and wish it occurred more often
in crossword puzzles where words
nest like your favorite songbirds,
which have nearly gone extinct.

You like the way it zings through
conversation, applying itself
to words like xylophone where
it has no legitimate business.

This wanton intercourse with X
is the kind of winsome habit
that attracts you to the crude men
who cruise the world for women
sculpted to fit their egos.

I should stay home reading books
devoid of the letters Z and X.
I should inform the police
that you’re defacing libraries

by prowling for obscure verbs
and nouns that can’t help themselves.
I’ll find you tottery in a bar
surrounded by laughing fellows
too thick to hear me coming.

Like Odysseus in his rage,
I’ll scatter every X and Z
and drag you home to atone
for your rude and vulgar consonance.

Then in the calm moonless night
snow will snow for a while,
then deep in your dream of it
change over to znow and settle
on the tip of your extended tongue.

Dream Machines

A dream is an oblong machine
encased in steel and enameled
red, yellow, orange, green or blue.

Gravity ignores it. Weather
can’t penetrate its sheathing.
You dislike seeing these objects

hover above the village, winking
in the cold winter sunlight.
The days wrinkle with old age

and tire easily. Cars slip
and crash on icy highways
that don’t lead anywhere worth

the risk of terrible injury.
I don’t mind seeing dream-blimps
adrift on the jet stream. I like

hearing the machinery whirr.
I’m not sure how they’re powered,
but they easily rise over hills

and wander toward the seacoast
where hundreds of boarded-up
summer cottages foster ghosts

that will never frighten anyone.
You want to shoot down a dream
with the antique Enfield rifle

your grandfather left in the attic.
That thing would probably explode
and maim you. If it didn’t,

the heavy armor would deflect
the bullet and possibly wound
a neighbor wielding a snow shovel

in a perfect moment of grace.
We see dream machines more often
than we used to. Colorfast [stanza break]

and solid, they seem to taunt us
for living such tepid lives
in a simple monochrome season.

But you shouldn’t take offense—
the hum of their gears and flywheels
a language you could easily learn.

Wanton Weather

Snowfall wears a surgical mask
in this age of feckless disease.

Because it clings to every surface,
it risks spreading a virus

powerful enough to French-kiss
every virgin into a frenzy.

I’m afraid to go out and shovel
the spongy mess from the driveway.

Already I can taste its lewd
and acidic texture laving

over my face as I strain to lift
shovelful after shovelful

to only the faintest applause.
Let’s stay indoors and watch it melt.

But you with your germproof snowsuit
have already rushed into the storm.

Before I get my boots laced up
you’ve cleared a path to the road

so the Mask of Red Death can find us,
if he happens to be on the prowl.

The daylight’s too thick to swallow
without difficulty. The roar

of oil burner in the basement
reassures with the ancient language

of fire brought smartly up to date.
What would Faustus say if faced

with this slur of wanton weather?
Would he feel his soul collect itself, [stanza break]

don a parka, and set out to meet
the devil at the bend in the road?

I feel nothing but the snowfall
plastering every detail

to render the landscape rococo
and mock our aesthetic mood.


William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently Train to Providence, a collaboration with photographer Rodger Kingston.

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