Selected Prose Poems | William Doreski

The Pneumatic Zoo of Synthesis

At the pneumatic zoo of synthesis, animals explode into other animals. Sometimes they exchange themselves one-to-one. Sometimes they form whole families, swarms, or even herds. A family of mice becomes a single garter snake. A woodchuck becomes a pangolin. An elephant becomes a herd of Jersey cows. You ask how it works. A machine creates a powerful vacuum. The animal enters and is both collapsed and expanded. It steps back into normal pressure in whatever form it wishes. A horse becomes a dragon. A chimera becomes a family of skunks. A zebra slips out of its stripes and becomes a camel. You wonder if it would work with humans. We know it does: that fat pink male attorney used to be a postcard bathing beauty. An old woman became a set of newborn twins. But beware. Our former President stepped into the vacuum and exploded into an army of cockroaches. Now they’re busy chewing on Brooklyn. So don’t attempt it, although we could enter together and perhaps emerge as a unicorn, ready for a prince to ride.

Dead on Time

One of those snotty old TV dramas only I rewatch. The inspector is in love with the widow. She’s not merry. She plans suicide to reunite herself with her husband. He killed himself with her help. Because he suffered from some unnamed palsy his finger couldn’t find the trigger. Sure to be fatal. Being a professor, like me, he had decided to take the dignified way out. Not me. I want to go screaming, kicking, and cursing into the seamless dark. The professor and his wife made love forever, then stopped. That’s when suicide loomed. The disease was just an excuse. The inspector tries to control the situation, but the widow offs herself anyway. The fury of the inspector is boundless. He riots in the police station and sets on pikes the heads of his sergeant and superintendent. A couple of constables, too. Meanwhile the dead woman is walking again. She only pretended to be dead on time. When she reaches the station and sees the heads on pikes, she fails to realize that these are her cloudy trophies hung in the sky. The inspector emerges. He doesn’t recognize her. On his way to the nearest pub he mutters, “I wonder who that woman was? Well, none of my business.” So it ends. I may have gotten a few details wrong, but the credits are rolling and it’s too late to change anything.

Malicious Mischief

The red house on the corner has digested its inhabitants. Police arrive with putty knives and scrapers, but they can’t collect much residue. The evidence points to me. I incited this house to turn against its owners. No, I deny everything. I had merely commented that an early nineteenth-century house with barn-red shingles looks independent and probably doesn’t need anyone looking after it. But that was silly: houses need to be inhabited. The red house glares at me. I’ve made trouble for it. But the police can’t charge a house with a crime, so they charge me with malicious mischief. I immediately confess: I’ve always wanted to be guilty of malicious mischief. It’s like running amok, which I’ve always wanted to do, although not sure how to do it. The police will explain when I get to the station. After I’ve passed out all the bribes, they’ll give me a copy of The Mischief Maker’s Manual, and in the future, I’ll live by it.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Dogs Don’t Care (2022). His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.