Old postcards of antique ruins
or landmarks since demolished
by twentieth-century wars
comfort me on winter nights
when the moon casts milky shadows
and coyotes rasp far away.
Dresden before the firestorm.
Coventry’s Gothic cathedral.
The Sphynx faceless and brooding.
Great Buddhas Taliban destroyed.
The Cloth Hall in Ypres before
German artillery leveled it.
You gave me these to remind me
of Walter Benjamin and Derrida.
You hope that on my birthday
I’ll appreciate outliving
the snail-mail picture postcard
still offered on rotating metal racks
but ignored by smartphone tourists.
Shuffling these postcards of losses
and rubble, I deal them out
like the Tarot pack. No hanging man,
but a photograph of catacombs
outside Rome, and one of dusty men
swinging shrunken heads by the hair.
You insist my fortune lies untold
in this array of vanished glories.
Yet some of these places still exist—
the pyramids still gloating with pride,
the tower of Pisa still leaning,
the Colosseum still colossal
although dropping a stone or two.
These postcards render everything
older than the planet itself—
the atonal black and white photos
or stippled machine-made color,
the simple captions, the schoolish
penmanship of the sender.
Everyone who mailed these postcards
died long ago, but these clues
linger like crumbs after meals
eaten when all remembered how
to handle their knife, spoon, and fork.
You rolled in some green matter
like that grass-seed fertilizer
spread on bald spots on lawns.
You’ve gone so ecological
not even the Pope would know you.
The farmyard lies flat and still
under hardpack of snow so tough
I can’t pierce it with a shovel.
The brief days whisper in shades
of blue peeled in micro-thin layers
from a spectrum science can’t parse.
You shiver naked beneath the green
in memory of last spring’s garden,
your face clenched in agony
of wit and irony, your breath
a gust of Australian wildfire.
Maybe in a few months the shift
of season will heal the angst
sulking beneath the iron snow.
Maybe after you shower off
whatever that green stuff is
we can sit over a hot supper
and discuss the crimson drapery
that seems to backdrop our lives.
I hadn’t expected this winter
to compete in such muddled colors.
The cloudy light hardly touches
the extraneous details of
the body you wear like something
you took from a rack at Goodwill.
The green, however, explodes
in the eye, simple biography
crude as a child’s first drawing.
William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent book is Train to Providence, a collaboration with photographer Rodger Kingston.