Manhattan shudders and groans.
Not an earthquake but something
deeper in its psyche. Rivers
crosscut the street grid. Hills bulk
and lift massive apartment blocks
above the threat of rising seas.
The city adapts. Bicyclists
explore new pathways while clerks
abandon tilting skyscrapers.
But no structures fall. They warp
into fresh configurations
so entire blocks embody
Frank Gehry’s louche projections.
Cell phones no longer operate,
the towers leaning the wrong way.
Warped facades sneer and glower.
We’ve forgotten at which restaurant
we’re expected to meet our friends.
It’s difficult to place ourselves
at street level where we belong.
We should return to our hotel
and hope our friends recover us.
Or we could forget about dinner
and select one of these newly
sprung up rivers and follow it
either to its source or its mouth.
We could pretend it’s a metaphor
for the unleashed sexual excess
that has lurked under this city
since the Dutch tried to claim it
and discovered that its bedrock
was too tough to accommodate
elementary human desires.
Another Brave New World
You read that France has shattered
into a thousand small islands,
each with a church, school, and jail.
You say that a Welsh village fielded
a winning Super Bowl team
composed of retired miners.
You note that the spy balloons
from China now deliver takeout.
In this same global spirit
Congress now meets in Cancun
because the food is spicy-hot
and appeals to avid debaters.
Martyrs perform in Carnegie Hall,
demons commandeer the sunways.
We should cancel our flight to Paris
and stop betting on football.
We’ll live on takeout and resolve
to vote by mail and take the bus
when we must get to City Hall
to confer with our feckless mayor.
France must purchase a thousand
ferryboats to service itself
so we should buy shipbuilding stock.
What if we move to Wales and live
in the shade of heaped mine tailings?
What if we visit our Congress
in the Yucatan and shake their hands
and sample the local cuisine?
By now the spiders have eaten
half of our elected officials,
while the rest have gone into hiding
as if one could hide from spiders.
Maybe France has begun to heal,
the islands drifting and bumping
and gradually rejoining. Surely we
are drifting, and in the dusty
streets of Manhattan we find ourselves
duplicated in all we meet,
distempers unsheathed and hissing.
Kumimanu at Large
We learn that giant penguins
roamed the seas after dinosaurs
petered out. Kumimanu, twice
the height, three times the bulk
of the emperor penguin,
would have savaged the fish-world
almost as cruelly as humans have.
You peer at the skeletal drawing
and realize that many neighbors
and friends we encounter downtown
are giant penguins adapted to life
on land, appetites adjusted
to include coffee, bagels, pizza.
You note that the beak and stance
expose them. Pronged conversations
and short legs clever on ice
distinguish them from those born
fully human and incapable
of enjoying long stretches at sea.
Many will see this article
about fossils in New Zealand
and surely some will notice
that their beaked friends and neighbors
never reveal their torsos because
their feathers would give them away.
They must be cozy in winter,
but summer would be a challenge.
We wonder if they’re susceptible
to bird flu. Maybe their doctors,
alert to their genetic heritage,
vaccinate them so thoroughly
they can’t endanger the village.
Let’s hope so. Don’t mention
this article to friends who
seem to be giant penguins.
They’ve impersonated persons
all their lives, so leave them
to foster their eggs in peace.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Dogs Don’t Care (2022). His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.