A Winter’s Worth of Penance by William Doreski

As punishment for the joy
of being me, I have to eat
all of the season’s first snowfall.
Allowed a soup spoon, I work
around the house, devouring
and processing my private acres.
Then down the driveway to the road.
Although it thaws and purifies
my kidneys as fast as I eat it,
so much bulk weighs heavily
on my conscience, which trembles
like that of a pedophile priest.
Mingling consciousness of crime
with the vast indifference of weather
renders me limbless and stupid.
I wish I could publish the sound
of my spoon plunging into drifts
and disemboweling their essence.
I wish I could diagram the grief
of browsing like deer in the marsh,
grazing the whole fresh layer
to expose the black ice below.
It will take me all winter to eat
this storm, while others pile on,
concealing this initial onset,
merging and submerging its freight.
I’ll be eating snow until the thaw.
Having failed to punish myself
sufficiently, I’ll limp into spring
with my evil unpurged. A glow
of fake divinity will blossom
amid the tulips to absolve me;
but having drunk so much atmosphere
I’ll no longer try to fool myself
but will puddle with the last
of snowmelt, and become one
and only one, a subprime number.



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.