Three Prose Poems

by William Doreski

The Black Sheep of New Jersey

The black sheep of New Jersey move north slowly, grazing through the Newark suburbs, crowding the highways and stopping traffic, flowing like electricity over the Tappan Zee Bridge, mowing everything in their path. They bred just outside of Princeton, by the smelly old canal, near the lakes where scullers scull on bristling afternoons. The sheep thrived in the shadow of the university’s collective intellect, but then outgrew their origins and decided through telepathy, instinct, or intuition to herd toward New England. The sheep shuffle up through Poughkeepsie, razing the Vassar campus, then head east toward Kent, Cornwall, Torrington. They cruise easily over the hills, devastating the greenery, trampling fragile clapboard houses, toppling old brick mills. They angle up toward Windsor Locks, ploughing ruts in the runways of Bradley Field, then wading the Connecticut River to land on the left bank in Enfield with their shaggy coats ready to shear. But no one gets to shear these sheep. Black as dynamite, black as depression, black as the absence of sanity they crush through familiar old neighborhoods and leave tiny children keening in the rubble, the vacuum of their passing absolute.

Tinfoil Hat

Wearing my tinfoil hat to attract lightning and UFOs, I dance down Grove Street singing in vibrant colors. Yes, the hat blocks the CIA and NSA mind control experiments, but it also keeps my ears warm and flatters my crude Slavic looks. Lightning hasn’t yet arrived for the season, but UFO activity has been frequent. I spotted a big one last night. It hovered above the village, sucking up dreams to process into brain-snacks for its crew. Then it zipped away, leaving a glitter of stardust. The smaller ones keep moving. They never stop to pick up hitchhikers, but I like to lie in the grass after midnight and watch them maneuver. They sometimes steer erratically among the mountains, and once I saw one crash into Topside Pond. The crew swam to shore where the government gave them green cards since they were already green. You might meet one of these aliens at the post office, hardware store, or the café where our retired judge holds forth. I’m surprised that they’ve stuck around. Why don’t they catch a ride on one of those big saucers, the ones that purr like massive kittens? Maybe they can’t handle the disgrace of having crashed their expensive craft. I’d ask, but I don’t want to embarrass them. Hard enough being green-skinned in our beige / brown world. Besides, I noticed one looking quizzically at my tinfoil hat, and I don’t want to have to explain myself.

Crisping in the Blue

As global temperatures rise I sink deeper and deeper into my leather chair. Gregorian chants on the radio muffle the hiss and sputter of comets resculpting the cosmos. Certain lines of force crosshatch in splatters of vicious inks. The tall boots I wore in my swamp-sloshing youth no longer fit. The edge of the world, which I’d often stepped off by accident, has healed, but that doesn’t solve the problem. No, the oceans are rising with bellows of protest no one hears. Hurricanes bigger than Texas romp over prostrate shorelines and flatten anyone who objects. Although this sounds portentous, the fact that planet is smoothing itself, polishing every surface, should spark a little pride in the survivors. I don’t plan on being among them, but until Orion the hunter bags me I’ll read and read, turning the pages with the monotony of surf on a windy day. No one attempts to share my space, although this tiny room could accommodate a hundred climate refugees, or at least their ashes. I settle into a shapeless mass and the cats crawl into my lap. They don’t understand how distant everything has become, how sky clashes with sky and the wetlands boil over. An ice sheet creaks like a hinge in a haunted house. The sparkle of the comets illuminates the cruelest ignorance.

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (2019).

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