A Poem from William Doreski

The Sagacity of Old Masters

The ignorance of wooded hills
a week after the election
offends me. Such brown tones denote
the sagacity of Old Masters
or maybe of Hemingway in Spain,
but these post-glacial sine waves
ramble about nothing special,
and terminate by cuddling up
to highways bulldozed to kill.

You laugh at my angry conceit,
but John Donne himself would groan
at the intrusion of such pointless
geological abstraction when
people are starving for lack
of useful figures of speech
and our politics withhold them
while centuries stack like cordwood.

Our lives stall in supermarkets
where the checkout lines extend
from Andalusia to Naples,
Bangkok to Manila and back.
When we emerge with grocery bags
bulky as bear cubs we notice
that the hills have further withdrawn
in twilight, their motive unclear
but their method involving
spews of gravel and tree stumps.

Now do you believe that tales
from Shakespeare apply to us
and the borderland we inhabit?
We choose a highway and ply it
with our week’s worth of fodder
smiling in the back seat. The death
of the planet seems imminent,
but the hills feint and withdraw
even further, their ignorance
more essential than our knowledge,
and cushioned in rotting leaves.

William Doreski’s most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has
published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays,
poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.