September 2020

Back to Issue 8

The Present-Tense Lacks Genius

By Willaim Doreski

If this modest river is different

every time I see it, why not

build a dam and cure its rage

to continually reform itself?


Even under a skim of ice,

its righteous flow asserts itself

and shames my gradual slippage

through the interstices of age.


You rarely hear me speak aloud

anymore, but read my thoughts

the way I read the black current

fulfilling the angst of gravity.


In the café with certain friends

beaming around us you ply

your conversation prowess

in the richest possible flow


while I slip into my coffee

to drown a lifetime of being shy.

The present-tense lacks genius,

lacks a foothold on the slope


that has steepened since my birth.

When I look into the dark shallows

flowing through absolute cold

or hear you parsing politics


with a surgeon’s bristling word-hoard,

I feel slight enough to bookmark,

with a child’s absolute certainty,

a moment in a rough-hewn life.


Tomorrow I’ll forget this urge

to pin myself to a paper chart

and dangle like a pelt. For now,

though, the dark waters flow and flow,                                


and so does your conversation,

which no more than the river 

would accept my intervention,

not even with a brittle smile.