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By William Doreski

Orion at midnight strides

across our western frontier

sporting Riga and Betelgeuse


and the lesser stars gleaming

like tatters of foil. You claim

that this fanciful cluster sires


nostalgias above and below

the equator. You say that births

of a grossly divine nature


occur nightly in its footfall

across barely assuaged oceans

and continents going adrift.


This bleakest of warriors

dangles shrunken heads from his belt.

They used to be the Muses,


but like us became obsolete.

Look, their mouths are still moving.

Their myths still deploy in notes


the color of wolf-hide. You garble

their names nightly in sleep,

trying to adopt their treble


and shape it to your distemper.

They died in the first creation,

the explosion that set the cosmos


ticking with a mass of black matter.

Orion’s gleam reflects in the snow

baked clay-hard by insolent cold.


We could step outside and walk

in that mirrored starlight and taste

the divinity. But distance


would defy us. We’d have to admit

that the nebulae aren’t the shrunken

heads of dead muses but masses                               

of gas and dust and nascent stars

that could birth worlds greater than ours—

in which case we should withdraw


our fantasies and slink back to bed,

cuddling our own shrunken heads

in the warmth between our thighs.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Venus, Jupiter (2023).  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals. 

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