Self Decapitating

Expert at ignoring pensive

Anglo-Catholic pieties,

I still enjoy a good cry

in a dusty, gloomy cathedral

like Durham, York, or Salisbury.

John Donne’s wrought-iron sermons

doctor me into moments

perilously close to belief.

Although I see myself shrouded

like Dean Donne practicing death,

I may never visit England

again, so I’d better dismiss

the soul-wrenching cathedral scenes

and accept the present tense.


You suggest I’m like a sea slug

that self-decapitates to grow

a fresh body free of parasites.

The video you discovered

on the internet intrigues me—

separated head nosing about

its abandoned body, its feelers

serving as surrogate legs.

How does it generate such will?

Yes, shucking my body and growing

a fresh excrescence appeals.

But wouldn’t my withered expression

perched atop a new adolescence

look gamey and horrify friends?


Although I prefer to daydream

in my battered leather chair,

maybe I should fly to York.

In the thirteenth century minster

the midnight is deep as the sea.

So many decapitations marred

the reigns of Henry the Eighth

and Queens Mary and Elizabeth

that England must have seemed like

the ocean floor where sea slugs

like me can do without bodies

long enough to grow new ones

purified of competing faiths,

our slime-trails abruptly ended.

Abstract Architecture

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.