Symbols, Emblems, Metaphors
Someone stretched a clothesline
across a woods road and hung
a new blue flannel-lined shirt
and a placard with the number
40 printed neatly on it.
I think I can wear the shirt
without catching some disease,
but the number worries me.
Forty acres and a mule?
Unbuilt house number 40
in some evil future subdivision?
Forty years subtracted from
the life of anyone who dares
to don this L. L. Bean shirt
that looks, feels, and smells unworn?
No one else ever walks this road,
which ends in a marsh where birds
never sing. Winter is closing in
in tepid gusts. I'll wear this shirt
home, and nail up the plaque where
anyone might see it and wonder.
Symbols, emblems, metaphors
incite the challenge of dullards
like me who believe in reason
and distinguish verbs from nouns.
I already own a shirt like this,
but a paler shade of blue. I passed
the age of forty almost forty
years ago. What else can happen?
As I turn toward home wearing
the shirt and clutching the number,
I feel the wind become a language
all over again, just because
I'm facing the other direction,
as if turning back the clock.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.