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William Doreski

Elemental Underground

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.

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