Soliloquy of the Shrunken Head by William Doreski

Of course they removed my skull
and retooled it as a font.
Then they stretched and smoked my face
above a wood fire. They sewed it
around a tough little fistful
of brain-pulp spiced with preservatives.

Good workmanship. But tiny,
tinier than an infant’s, my head
evokes no sentiments from those
who remember my prosperity.
The museum has mounted me
in a climate-controlled display
of the arts and crafts artifacts
of islanders I admired so much
I hired them to artifact me.

Because the brain-pulp retains
an electrical jolt of faith
I imagine I see you peering
into the case with your large gray eyes
brimming as you read the label
describing me as the relic
of a former college professor
endowed with no particular genius,

despite one high school teacher’s
approval of the slant of light
that one afternoon creased his brow.
You believe you recognize me
in this description, but you’re wrong.
You recognize the head itself,
although it looks more like the stub
of a generous, expensive cigar.

You try to squeeze out a tear,
but my stitched mouth quivers
with inexpressible laughter, so
you smile in response; and the spice
infused in my brain-meat shivers
with a vegetable evolution
I regret I’m unable to share.


William Doreski’s most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009).  His work has appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Natural Bridge.

© 2012 William Doreski