The Moustache of Hieronymus Bosch
The light comes off the library façade so heavily it topples the man begging with a cardboard sign. It reads, “Dead Man Strolling Sponsor My Walk.” I toss a dollar onto his groans to stifle them. Hieronymus Bosch has become famous again. Everyone’s discussing his torrid moustache, his tie-dyed smile. No wonder his paintings hurt so lusciously. One includes this man lying under his cardboard sign. Another includes me as the rump of some huge severed animal. The library, a bastion of culture, roars its approval. Faces beam in its tall windows, the faces of scholars who’ve spent lifetimes studying the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. I wonder if they recognize me, or merely approve of the insouciance with which I threw a dollar onto that supine fellow. Shrugging off his flimsy sign, he rises to thank me. God will save, he assures me. The moustache of Hieronymus Bosch twitches with humor. He has already placed us in the paintings of his choice, and no blessing can repaint with skill sufficient to negate this judgment.
Like a Tree of Perching Ravens
After a night of drunken tourists,
smashed glass and busted condoms
litter the sidewalks. The lilacs,
stripped of blossoms, grieve aloud
with small pale cries inaudible
to meat-eaters, sots, and atheists.
I scout up and down the streets
for the corpse I saw dragging
its length through the happy crowd.
I find it so fully deflated
it barely smears the cement.
The police won’t believe this
once was human. They’ll order
the nearest property owner
to spray it with a garden hose,
erasing a minor disgrace.
Today the regrets will settle
like a tree of perching ravens.
Parents will explain to children
how seams split and expose us
to each other in shades of blue
we hadn’t thought bruise could bear.
From this distance the clamor
of skyscrapers topping the sky
looks more suspicious than rant
of tattoos and piercings last night.
From this spot on the street where
something audible deceased,
the revisions of the architects
look troubled by the nightmares
that dishonor every childhood.
Those frights that shouldn’t frighten
with their bulging eyes and sneers
leave us restless and migrant,
always looking back to shudder
at shadows the color of stone.
About the Poet
William Doreski recently retired after years of teaching at Keene State College in New Hampshire (USA). His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.