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William Doreski: a poem

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.

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