Tag Archives: Poetry

That House

By Mark Saba

I sit on a dry patch
of colorless earth, an empty lot
situated neatly between two Depression-era
brown and tan brick homes.

There is no evidence of charred wood,
nor garden of tomato and pepper plants.
The lot has shrunken from its three-story home.
Now termites have no where to go

and bees search aimlessly for phantom flowers.
Even the front steps are gone. My stroke-stricken aunt
has no handrail to guide her, my grandmother
no place to grieve for a lost son.

I have no windows to wash for her,
nor adventures in her stoic attic.
We have only the sun now
but nothing seems to grow.

I am sitting in a desert
hoping to dream up a world
but a green awning hangs over me
keeping out the elements: the storms

of summer, tilled soil of spring,
scented air of Christmas
and inanimate fire
that consumes us all.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Lost Souls

By Mark Saba

Light turns on and off.
Fine needles fall from the pines,
intersections of tree shadow
and broken limbs lying ashen
in the brown ruin of past lives.

The young evergreens stand dwarfed
in defiance, their roots nourished
by those who’ve come before.
There is too much music
I haven’t heard.

It’s out there in the green
of dying summer, lyrics and notes
fusing in a future wonder
of fall color. But much of it
is past, and I am a lonely atom

in a universe of beautiful souls
who have given themselves
to the art of reordering the fallen leaves
so that we see the color of past years,
peeking through summer, still warm

under a phantom snow.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

On Reading the Death Certificate

By Mark Saba

On reading the death certificate
of my father, aged 29, my brother said
What do you make of the interval

between onset and death?
What do I make of the tiny cells
that stood ready to multiply

in the deepest part of his brain?
How long did they wait there?
In the interval between onset and death

he hopped the rooftops of a Pittsburgh
neighborhood with his cousin Ralph.
In the interval between onset and death

he sat diligently in a high school
political theory class, wondering what part of him
reared by Italian immigrants

might allow him to speak. In the interval
he sat with our mother in the booth
of the drug store soda fountain.

In the interval they found each other’s bodies
on their wedding night, amazed.
In the interval he drove over snowy roads

to pick up our grandmother from the 54C
streetcar, a boxful of pizzelles in her hand.
He measured out pills, elixirs, and ointments

in a profession that allowed him to find order
in a senseless world. In the interval
he forgot who he was, his senses slowly dulled

as he lay breathing in a hospital bed
surrounded by blinding lights, remembering
reels of home movies of us he’d shot

wondering what might have been real.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Old Shirts

By Mark Saba

My beloved T-shirts, worn ragged,
washed to the color of dust, yet
imprinted with my scent

carry everything I’ve witnessed—
their first days of my rejuvenation,
trial period of comfort, and final stretch

of willful obscurity—
as I met with triumph and despair
watching the orioles return,

my mother die, the sunlight of seawater,
my daughter admitted to rehab.
In the end I retire them

to the taboret of my painting studio
where, one by one, I use them to collect
excessive brushstrokes, unplanned arrays

of cadmium color, as I create new worlds
on a blank canvas, and those second skins
provide new comfort, their abandoned lives

awakened to new purpose.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Tabula Rasa

By Mark Saba

Three of my books lie unopened.
My wife lies absently on the couch
gone to a digital novel world.

A fire heaves in its designated hearth.
I am in and out of it,
in and out of my thoughts

as my body grows older.
Lacking the courage to write them down
I flounder in semi-sleep

remembering the title of a news article
proclaiming the latest discovery: that
in our universe, present and future occur

simultaneously. I think about
the poems I’ve written, love letters,
fiction. It all comes back to me

yet future plans delete them
from my list of accomplishments.
There is too much death on the horizon,

a triumphant tabula rasa that will have
the final say, that I will remember
even when nothing is written.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

You Consider the Apples

By William Doreski

Your apples never ripen but 
drop green and hard from the tree.
A lack of confidence? Spraying
the flowers to fend off the deer
may discourage the fruit that later
dangles like Christmas ornaments.

Too much thinking. Like you
pondering childhood in Poland,
your father repairing scruffy 
autos from the Soviet Union
and your mother nursing children
abandoned by unwilling parents.

You breached the university
in a thunder of competing tongues.
You graduated with such triumph
it deflated the stark old regime,
leaving a wreckage of heroes
in foolish historical poses.

Now you consider the apples,
their small tough size, their weak
hold on the tree. You suspect
that capitalist norms disfavor
the old varieties of apple,
modest but firm, subject to worms.

Under the full moon of summer, 
you swear a vegan allegiance
that should move any flora to tears.
Meanwhile deep in the wormwood
the eggs of subversive insects
hatch with a tiny private sound.

You return to the house with a sigh
the color of rotting newsprint.
Those freshly hatched subversives
are plotting mindless tactics,
their instincts thicker than night,
advantaged by lack of language.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Poet Laureate

By William Doreski

In Walpole, certain streets climb
the ridge to lord it over
the square white village below.
I can see your condo from here,
tucked in a cluster of roofs.

Across the river a freight train
slinks along the shaky rails.
Further, the scalloped horizon
of the Green Mountains staggers
from south to north, scoring
its persistence into the sky.

Your married lover’s long dead,
and the space he occupied fills
with a shivery yellow mist,
so you’re surely writing something
crisp enough to float a load
of sentiment that otherwise
would sink the bravest metaphor.

Maybe when I walk back down
the ridge I’ll phone and invite you
to slurp coffee at the café 
and chat about the aesthetic
we’ve wasted our best years parsing.

Yes, I know you walk with a cane
and may not want to expose
your bulk to caprice of summer—
insects, thunder, and heat stroke.
Although we’ve never been friends,
today I think we should try.

But maybe you’re not even there
anymore, having slipped away
with a scrawled page smoldering
in your wake, every word as tough
as a promise made in vain.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Agriculture Has Come to This

By William Doreski

Watering my zinnia sprouts
in judgmental glare, I sweat
with fear of future tornados, 
politics, tick disease, drought.

Scholars of the dark warn us
that indigo horizons have warped
and shed disgruntled species.
Scholars of noon warn that cold

seeps from the marrow to blame us
for evolving with such arrogance,
two-legged in a cringing world.
Who thought that elbowing us

with pear-shaped thinking could solve
the crumble of soil that retorts
with confidence and dismissal?
Watering sprouts hardly responds

to the ghost-hands pawing through
my garden every night, feeling
the feeblest pulse and stroking
every leaf into glad submission.

I shouldn’t bother imposing
myself on floral expressions.
I should allow occasional rain 
to have its way with gendered

flower parts bared for a purpose
other than bees and butterflies.
Childhood on the farm misled me
in factors of summer spectrums.

In the next life I’ll rain myself
instead of blaming the cloudy light
that exposes every open pore
to every homeless demon.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Mountain Laurel in Mason

By William Doreski

Nothing personal in splays
of mountain laurel enriching
the simple hardwood forest.

Driving through Mason, we gaze
at the surf of white blossoms
flaunting without a critique.

June days as thick as this one
require such floral displays
to endorse their other products.

Gnats, mosquitoes, and deer flies
gnaw and sip the acres of flesh
they claim as their heritage.

Have you noted the evil abroad?
Like and unlike the laurel it flaunts
ornamental but vicious motives.

Like and unlike the insect world
it subscribes to plain survival
without those stony excuses

we’re tired of refereeing.
To you the sky is always green.
To me the hills look yellow.

Fauves in our palates, cubist
in crudely grasping dimension,
we perk along the back roads

with all our senses tingling.
Parked by a marshful of lilies,
the far shore spackled with laurel,

we muse on the water level—
the lowered shoreline exposing
bullsheads rooted in the mud.

We can’t parse the entire world,
but mouthfuls catch our attention
and we speak in familiar tongues

of familiar textures and forms.
The evil putters about, wiping
its hands on its apron. Masons

wear aprons, and the town
of Mason sports an oversized
Masonic hall to make a point.

But laurel, not stone, dominates,
softening lines and easing the eye
away from the evil we spread

wherever we install our works—
the marsh only a naked spot
ripening in naked glare.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Urn Burial

By William Doreski

Two clay urns placed in a field
a hundred years ago collect
ashes blowing around the world.
Male and female from a time
when sex and gender were one.
They’re almost full. This summer

I’ll replace the two with several,
allowing the ether to sift
non-binary and others into
urns of their own. Our ancestors
would understand why secrets
have unfolded, exposing tattoos

we used to hide under our clothes.
Not that I’ve illustrated
my personal skin, but others
have adorned themselves so freely
I can’t help sharing their taste.
When I bury the urns, I’ll ask

priest, minister, rabbi, imam 
and pujari to officiate.
I’ll have the field consecrated
in at least two hundred languages.
Assembling so many liturgies
will fill the last, best years of my life.

I’ve already bought half a dozen
new urns, and found a new pasture
on an eastern slope to place them.
I hope this atones for my plain
agnostic life among strangers,
my awkward smiles and silence.

Indifferent to my diffidence,
the ash in the urns has toughened
into powerful black concrete,
competing immortalities 
gathered into a single substance
tough enough to speak for itself.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.