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William Doreski, 1/18/2010

Current Occupation: teacher
Former Occupation: factory line operator
Contact Information: William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge.

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Madison

Not the capitol of Wisconsin

but a small town on a ridge

overlooking a marshy river.

A college sprawls along the main street,

a jawful of mountains gnashing

on the horizon. A tavern

crowded with old men speaking

fluent Canadian although

we’re far south of Canada.

We drink two pints of local brew

then stroll north past a tower

of colored glass, a concrete gym,

and a plain brick classroom building.

Clapboard New England-style houses

hold their ground. Two-car garages

reveal men working on old cars

that should’ve died in the Eighties.

We reach the north end of the village

where spruce woods creep down to the road

and the smell of the river thickens.

The light fails. The far line of mountains,

east beyond the marshland, purples

like anger. No one has followed us

but we’re not alone. The sidewalk

ends at the forest. Not a house,

nothing beyond but asphalt curving

out of sight. We cross and return,

the glass tower gaudy with lights,

the classrooms coughing up students,

the tavern spewing drunks. The men

still work on their junky old cars

and their wives bring them coffee

in cracked mugs stolen from diners.

We name the town like a mantra:

Madison, Madison, Madison.

The sloping ridge looks ready

to slide right into the river,

collapsing the narrow village

and crushing all its citizens.

But the storefronts glow with confidence,

books, flowers, groceries, liquor,

cameras, computers, sweaters, and ties.

We shrug off the urge to browse

and keep moving forward like sharks,

trying to say ahead of the dark

that otherwise will consume us.

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