by William Doreski

Our Back Yard Scrolls

At an archaeological site
behind the vegetable garden
we unearth a cache of scrolls
inscribed in ancient Hebrew.

By polishing my eyes with clean
linen napkins and greasing
my tongue with lard I can read
this gnarled and cranky script.

A census. Every dead and living
citizen of modest entrepots
spiked along the shoreline trade route
from Tyre to Gaza. Your agate gaze

embodies your astonishment
at my skill in deciphering
and translating this faded murk
from twenty-four centuries ago.

Smacking over this data-feast,
I disengage from the planet
until you jolt me with a whisper:
“How did ancient Hebrew scrolls

land in our New England back yard?”
I stayed up late, later, latest
faking antique parchment, brewing
vegetable ink, learning Hebrew,

then buried the scrolls to age them.
So you suspect. But perhaps
an angel dropped them en route
to that homestead in the sky

to which the color blue aspires.
Or maybe an unscripted flood
washed them here from Palestine.
Perhaps flagellants clapping their flesh

walked undersea and arose here
and deposited their burdens.
We should beg the authorities
on the Dead Sea Scrolls to detour

from their serious drollery
and scholarly miasma to loom
over this find and quarrel with it.
We’ll be famous in this world and that;

and with a clank of thunder
the whirlwind will alight and shake
our hands and thank us for engaging
a fictive moment, cast in loam.

* * *

Blue on Blue

Gloom pours up from a dirt
floor packed hard as granite.
I’d mistake my mood for ghosts
of sailors broken on rocks;
but the pastels swimming before
my gaze have haunted me for years,
no matter how far inland I hide.

You call from the height to claim
I’d love the blue-on-blue that sprawls
to Portugal and back again.
You say the lens warps the sunlight
so that you can read the future.
The concentric annular sections
divide the temporal moment,
then reassemble it with focus
so powerful it projects us
for weeks and months ahead.

I’d like to see for myself
what’s making you giggle like
a tree full of starlings. Maybe
you see me gawky in public,
as usual, or maybe I’m dead
in the street with traffic grumbling
back and forth over the smear.
Maybe you see the light surfing
over us both as the sun sets
in Laurentian shades of glory.

But what has given you wings
so that when I step outside
I spot you leaping over the rail
and flying over the Atlantic
in a flutter of naked smiles?

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and teaches at Keene State College. 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 ReviewAtlanta ReviewNotre Dame ReviewThe AlembicNew England QuarterlyWorcester ReviewHarvard ReviewModern PhilologyAntioch Review and Natural Bridge.