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Row or Wade by William Doreski

How can we cross the lake? Row

or wade? Flimsy wooden walkways

stagger across a hundred yards

of shallows, then end staring

into whorls of cruising eels.

It’s too deep to wade unless

we splash along the shoreline,

which would take half a day.


You don’t mind stripping naked

and dogpaddling to the far shore,

but what will you do for clothes

when you arrive at the landing

where in summer the boats refuel

and boaters eat sandwiches wrapped

in that plastic wrap you hate?

Let’s row. Despite the breeze

wilting what’s left of the forest,

the lakeshore looks delicious

as it compacts itself for winter.

In a month we could walk across

on ice as thick as a textbook.

But for now, this one-piece

fiberglass rowboat will suffice.

What do you think? Your mind


is an old magazine lounging

in a doctor’s waiting room.

Thumbed through once too often,

its pages are limp with ideas

too tired to compel belief.

I can’t ask anything of you

but to keep your clothes on

and row with the same effort


you’ve put into a lifetime

of cheating on your husband,

whose ashes we could scatter

on the lake if no one’s looking

Aim the boat at the point where

perspective mates with desire.

Every stroke slices off a bit

of landscape, gnawing away


excess to reveal formations

geology can only imagine.

Doesn’t the effort feel good?

Wake me when we get there.

The slather of the lake slopping

at the boat’s a soporific

I have to honor for your sake,

subverting us both in a dream.


William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall.

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