After the first snow the pond, still unfrozen, becomes a lens through which a great blindness peers. As I walk around the edge, careful to avoid slipping in, I wonder if the scene is an illusion. What if there is no pond, no ranks of red pines behind it? What if neither blindness nor sight applies? The sun is a spark from the flint of a primitive stoneworker busy making arrowheads. The snow is a page torn from a sacred book too hallowed for anyone to have written. The pines, possibly only scratches on my retinas, nod as the northeast wind picks up. The pond, that great but unusable optic, is a hole at the bottom of which naked children (drowned centuries ago) clump like bees in a hive. I should kneel and cup a handful of icy water, but it’s too stagnant to drink, even if it were real. The blindness ought to have cured me of myself, but maybe that’s another illusion. No longer afraid of drowning in that vacancy, I stride right across the pond, walking on water with the same unconscious self that walks me everywhere else.
3 Questions for William
What was your process for creating this piece?
I have no discernible process for writing anything. I just place one word after another and hope for the best. When writing verse poetry, I tend to think in lines. When writing prose poems, I think in sentences. When writing criticism, I’m not sure what I think I do, show my work to friends before sending it out anywhere. I share my prose poems with a well-published poet who also writes prose poems.
What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?
Most of my poetry is in verse, but sometimes I write prose poems to loosen up my syntax and free myself from the tyranny of syllable and stress count. Prose poems have come into their own since Charles Simic won a Pulitzer for a small collection of them. Although no one seems sure of what prose poems are, no one has ever defined poetry with any credibility, either.
What is the significance of this work to you?
I have always had poor eyesight, and the threat of blindness looms over me. Exploring that in some oblique way seems an imperative. The scene is a familiar one, but defamiliarizing it is part of the project of the poem.
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.