by William Doreski
July heat tatters in pines.
Up at midnight reading Melville,
I hear a great horned owl tune up
to frighten mice and voles working
for grub. The hoot repeats, tolling
like a horror movie soundtrack.
For a moment, I’m small enough
to fill the craw of some creature
flexing through the night sky.
I remember my childhood dream
of white and bodiless spectacles
hovering over the playground.
Its appetite, a great unknown,
licked my heart and savored it.
I woke screaming so quietly
my fox terrier didn’t stir.
Luminous in the graveyard shift,
the book flutters in my hands.
If I weren’t holding tightly
it would flop away and hide
under the bed where everything
metamorphoses to monsters
that never completely grow up.
I’m reading “Benito Cereno,”
marveling at the shaving passage,
the razor slipped under the chin,
the nick, the tiny blood-splotch.
The owl knows more about blood
than Melville or me, but still
the depicted moment triumphs;
and I grip the book so firmly
the rags of heat fluttering
in the blackout become flesh,
torn and suffering but stubborn
in its duty to survive.
[William Doreski teaches writing and literature at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His 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, including Massachusetts Review, Atlanta Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Worcester Review, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, and Natural Bridge.]