In Panama

William Doreski

Your rear deck abuts the canal 
so closely I can stretch to touch 
the flanks of huge container ships 
creeping along with Chinese goods 
piled six boxes tall on deck. 
The climate’s so lush your garden 
looks nubile as flesh. Prowling 
amid the squash and lettuce you smile 
that famous oyster of a smile 
and I want to roll in the soil 
and howl with all of my organs.

We like Panama—the government 
too timid to annoy us 
despite the khaki uniforms, 
the tourists sobered by the sight 
of the canal with its massive 
steel and concrete locks receiving 
hulking black-hulled ships with ease. 
I like to spend the days reading 
on the deck and waving at crews 
from every nation in the world. 
You with your garden obsession 
so tire yourself that by evening 
while I peel and cook vegetables 
for yet another casserole 
you lie so flat on your chaise-longue 
you look like a paper doll.

At night the canal smells deep 
as the world’s great lobotomy. 
The Atlantic and Pacific meet 
reluctantly, at different levels. 
Why can’t the oceans lie as flat
as you can? We slip into bed 
like big freighters into the locks 
and every day we emerge fresh 
in the lukewarm view and peer 
up and down the canal to count 
the ships the way Homer did, 
the stream of commerce brimming.


About the Author

William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Atlanta Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Lowestoft Chronicle, and Natural Bridge.