two poems


On the Subway Station Floor

Slumped on the subway station floor 

I chew on my plaid wool jacket, 

gnawing a cuff while the famous 

Chinese poet with both small hands 

sketches a famous landscape 

in the greasy underground air. 

Passersby throw coins at us 

because we look too deviant 

to survive on our wits. Trains growl 

from the tunnels and open their doors 

but the moment hasn’t arrived. 

The Chinese poet regards me 

chewing my sleeve and requests

my genealogy. I reply 

through a muffling of wool that 

the tank-rumpled Ukraine mud 

swallowed half my ancestors 

while the others lie preserved 

in the bogs of Ireland. He nods 

and begins a new sketch. No need 

to ask if his great-great-grandfather 

was that same calligrapher 

whose work in the Boston museum 

sobered me one rainy afternoon 

while the guards snoozed on their feet 

and mammoth carved Buddhas mused. 

No need to translate the scroll 

embellished with a reedy pond 

set in a hillscape overhung 

by black vees of birds. The trains 

roar like revenge. The coins fall 

about us, nickels and quarters 

not like teardrops but more like 

bullet holes punched in the concrete. 

I’ve chewed my jacket long enough 

and my friend has finished his sketch 

so we gather the coins and leap 

aboard a train. As it leaves 

the station, I note our ghosts 

still reposing where we left them, 

their smiles as fixed as graffiti, 

their perfection simple as stone.

Road Trip

Snouted and ugly as a coffin, 

Sunkist orange and wedge-shaped, 

my new car meets the highway 

at so steep an angle I plow 

a ditch three feet deep, splaying 

chunks of asphalt and forcing 

oncoming traffic off the road. 

The state police smile as I pass. 

The highway crews wave. Driving south, 

I ditch the interstate through Hartford, 

New Haven, Bridgeport, Norwalk, 

and finally hit Manhattan. 

Trenching Fifth Avenue I unearth 

gas and electric lines, sewage 

and water pipes, ripping the fabric 

to expose the plumbing no one 

wants to see. Crossing subway lines, 

I scrape the concrete tunnels raw, 

and farther south reveal the bones 

of the old city: brick foundations, 

slate gravestones, pewter pots, bottles, 

and mildewed bibles stinking

of grief that should’ve resolved 

itself two centuries ago. 

Pedestrians laugh and applaud. 

Few have seen this sort of car 

before, but soon everyone 

will have one. On I drive, 

scorching through Washington Square,

 toppling the chessboards and addicts, 

harrowing the financial district 

then drilling through Battery Park, 

crashing and sinking the Staten 

Island ferry and pointing 

my prow at Ellis Island, 

where my ancestors first ran aground.


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. You can find more of his work at