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William Doreski

Your Underground House

At dusk your underground house
yawns and receives me. But lost
in the rotund foyer, I'm frightened.
No one greets me, takes my coat,
offers whiskey or tea. Track lighting

casts morbid shadows that creep
like snow melt over the carpet.
Why aren't you here to comfort
your invited guest? I withdraw
as subtly as I arrived, leaving

hardly a trace of DNA.
From the outside your house suggests
neither molehill nor burial mound
but a dimple on a titan's face.
How can you occupy such glum

and windowless space? The urge
to defenestrate your possessions
would have to go unsatisfied;
yet you've often felt a rage,
you've claimed, to throw me out

the nearest window. Dusk deepens
into the palest shade of dark.
Like pearls of tapioca boiling
in a pot, the stars roil in a sky
you can't see from inside your house.

When I phone to inform you
I'm outside and fear to re-enter
without your assistance, you laugh
an ecru laugh that resonates.
You expect me to descend the stairs

on my own and discover you sprawled
on a cushion-hungry daybed.
You expect me to devour
the scene with bulging cartoon eyes,
then drop to all fours and whinny.

The electric door opens again,
but I peer inside and discover
that the footprints in the carpet
I left a few minutes ago
have already filled with blood.

The Haunted Space I Occupied

Owned by strangers now, the house
of my childhood looks neglected
and unhappy. Gray and white paint
flakes from the verandah. Front steps
ache where obesity has trod them.
The aluminum siding my father
installed in the Sixties has lost

its white anodized coating and shines
a frightening raw metal shine.
Parked on the street, I watch the door.
Maybe something will emerge
that will explain why the shingles
flap like little toupees, why
the gutters droop, one storm window

has cracked. From the second floor,
the haunted space I occupied,
a face glooms at me. Not the face
of one of the new inhabitants,
but the one that troubled my sleep
when I was five or six and dreamed
of white spectacles drifting

over the schoolyard. Later this face
wore those ghostly spectacles
to confront me as I lay in bed
reading Boy Scouts at Woodcraft Camp.
The most resourceful Boy Scout
would have cowered under the covers
as I did. I'm glad that face still brims

in the tiny upstairs window.
Suffering that smoky presence
is penance enough for allowing
this house to slip into decay.
I drive away slowly, peering
at the rearview mirror to ensure
that specter isn't trailing me.

As the elm in the front yard waves
goodbye, goodbye, the groaning
of a terrible weight on the stairs
shocks through me like a toothache,
but I refuse to remember
climbing alone to the second floor,
the floral wallpaper weeping.

The Muse of Mass Destruction

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Overnight the village collapsed.
Gnashing with regrets, each house
coughed up inhabitants and fell.
No one hurt. The brick church burst
with sufficient force to spear
its weathervane into rock ledge

a mile away. Bicycling through
the ruins, we doubt that earthquake
would leave such neat piles of wreck.
You with your flimsy streamlined hair
and your slippery figure flailing
the pedals look sleek as the muse

of mass destruction, the one artists
in all media love most. Clumsy
and panting like Ford Madox Ford
on my trail bike, I follow your track
through rubble fine as beach sand.
Helicopters prattle overhead.

The rescue operation begins
in a roar of red-lit vehicles,
but the bridge to town has shattered
and the stones of its former arch
have splashed into the brown current,
and drowned in the snow melt.

No one needs medical attention,
though, the citizens all gathered
at the diner, the one structure left
intact and functioning. A murmur
of generator, hiss of propane,
and omelets and bacon and toast

arrive on paper plates. You're too smooth
to accept such greasy food.
But I indulge while you watch
with manicured delight, your face
a study in geologic success
and your body clenched with power.

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