Poetry: Your Feckless Smile by William Doreski

Your Feckless Smile
Your smile detached and flitted off.
We search in the Luxembourg Garden,
the Tuileries, the cafes along
Boulevard Montparnasse. You fear
it has adhered to German tourists
or smeared the eloquent stained glass
of Saint-Chapelle. I worry
that it has disgraced itself drunk
at an embassy party where
the stuffing comes out of shirts.
Why can’t you discipline it?
To avoid frightening the world
I never smile. No one expects
my approval, no one invites me
to galas where the champagne flows,
no one greets me gladly in the street.
My expression avoids extremes
so I never have to explain them.
Isn’t this why we live in Paris
with the Seine in suicidal gloom
the cathedral shelled by fire,
terrorists gunning down their critics?
No sunny Impressionist scenes
for us. If you hadn’t loosed your smile
we would be too anonymous
to suffer existential angst,
our bodies so secret that even
naked we’d be invisible.
The alerted gendarmery searches
alleys, bistros, cafes, parking lots
in the dusty yellow suburbs
where rumors froth with lechery.
Next time refrain from flirting
with the world. It doesn’t flirt back
but takes what it wants with a sneer,
leaving its best friends toothless
and sopping up muck through a straw.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His forthcoming 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.