Perhaps, in the end, something similar
will happen here ...
The fathers, disarmed, lose weight
on the poor rations of the first year.
Find socially wholesome work
they hate or throw themselves into
fanatically. Feel surrounded
by less-than-humans, freaks,
and animals they can no longer hunt,
though actually no one comes near them. Meet
in secret, reminisce about rallies,
sing old songs, plot and are
again defeated; breed.
The second generation, changed,
accuses. But this is America
and there’s a crazy religiosity,
still, about them …
Minorities, not so minority now,
rebuilding the cities laugh
at the son of a magapreacher,
who is always hanging around, wanting
to help. “I’m responsible
for him / it / everything!” he weeps.
His significant other cries “You’re not!”
but eventually finds him wanting –
the way a German girl I knew
in the ‘70s said that German girls
Not loud, quiet, and not the quietness
of passive-aggression; what’s intolerable
is the engrained assumption
of privilege: that what he says is
important, that he is.
That anyone should care
how in his dreams he too is pursued
by cops, or the private guards
of some plutocrat, or
gangsters identical to police
(some smaller countries lead
the world in this respect). How he’s accused
of offenses that aren’t,
or wouldn’t be if they weren’t his,
and beaten till he wakes; how he lives
in wasted time. And through
their shouting they attempt to make
the distinction between his dreams and
their lives. But in his eyes
and sunken posture they perceive
(with contempt and a sort of relief as well as
compassion) that he’s simply mad,
and lift him gently, call someplace
for help. Thus solidarity is achieved.
Somewhere in modernity, a New Woman
exits a stagedoor. The bloodstreaked ghostpale
makeup for her role
as ingenue in Goddess in the Underground
has yielded to freshness; next season,
if various plots mature, she will be Goddess.
The stalls’ and critics’ ecstasies
linger. Her silent assistant bears away
of roses. She will find them vased
at home – save one,
stolen to grace
the assistant’s tiny immigrant apartment
and watered by nameless emotions.
A streetlamp limns the actress’s better profile.
Droshkies and broughams jingle to the curb,
are displaced (horses clopping
droop-headed off) by a jeep,
MG, and Rolls. A studied gesture
brings glove to dimple, choosing.
Across the street, an aging youth
wearing the Pierrot costume the system
demands of rebels, glares at the suitor cars
with a jealousy that at least is real.
He should be off being a genius
or blogging but in a way
he is at his post. Now fascists pass,
breaking heads and windows, obstructing his view.
(The driver of the jeep calls
HQ, but the time to shoot them
has passed.) The youth is tempted
to join them – let anger out, it’s easier
to despise women – but a miraculous,
prevents. He goes off
to mitigate Third World conditions
several blocks away. At times the very white
whites of the eyes in dark
faces in lightless rooms remind him
how he looked at her.
Soon she’s the Goddess,
awaiting her car and chauffeur,
head full of film contracts and leading men,
when along the boulevard, narrowly avoiding
bouquets of surveillance cameras, swoops
a new two-person jetpack. It’s
a youth she has seen at the edge of the world,
well-dressed enough beneath the helmet.
He invites her for a spin.
I can give you my autograph here, she says,
and Pierrot, imploding, cries
that what he wants is her love – that since he saw her
as the Rebel Girl last year he can see nothing else;
neither ethics nor action nor madness nor pride
helps. How did you get the jetpack?
she asks. He shrugs, sighs.
She lets him down efficiently but gently.
He squares his shoulders, tells himself and her
it must be Art
she has decided to live for. No.
For the Centenary of H. S. Mauberley
In the South Seas, he picks up a bug.
Thereafter, though never entirely well,
he can’t die. Other symptoms: time
is screwed up (the wars merge). He finds
he can no longer express himself
in sharp-hewn stanzas packed with Greek,
Middle French, other lore
that no one understands any more,
or pretends to, or is even willing to wait
for footnotes. Years in sanitaria, full
(to spite him!) of incurable ghost Jews,
who show him their poetry. He
discharges himself, is on hand
for the épuration (Brasillach with
his last breath mourns “great red fascism,”
which strikes M as prescient). Gets
in touch with Pound, and is one of the flacks
sitting round in ’67 when
the Master sort of blames himself
and Ginsberg sort of forgives him. But M,
not stupid, sees that for the masses
the only analogue for him and his style
is Zelig. Mr. Nixon, of the famed
“steam yacht” (destroyed in the Blitz), has died
and left him advice: “Go into advertising.”
M does. His commercials allude
to every jewel and layer of Pop; he’s
hot. But sometimes culture warriors
unearth his background and he has to change
his name or firm. Alas, he moans
one night in his flat, Art goes
through cycles, the ironic, the sentimental;
you have to cut your soul to the pattern.
A chronic drop from the kitchen faucet
lands in an unwashed pot. As it fills,
the sound becomes deeper and somehow doubled.
One could write that, he thinks, but it would be
only another sort of vanity.
The nation of humanities-
type intellectuals institutes
a space program. There’s dissent –
the money would be better spent
on their numerous orphans, preserving
illuminated manuscripts – but, well,
the stars, you know … We’ll reduce
the first three astronauts chosen, the Commander,
Mission Specialist, and Aphorist
to numbers (1 through 3), which is how
they often feel. They are not the gung-ho
well-adjusted military athletes
of richer countries. Training almost kills them.
Liftoff is worse. Reality has the weight
of seven gravities, thinks 3. True learning-experiences
are deadly. 1 gets in touch
with Ground Control so often that he sounds
needy. 2 hisses a song
of imagined loves beside abandoned highways.
The man in the moon quickly fades but remains
in the mind. (The Chinese, 2 reminds himself,
see a rabbit.) The far side
has fewer features on which to project.
“It’s the back of a skull,” says 2.
“The truth is the whole,” quotes 3 tonelessly;
“the desired object, then what lies behind.”
“This is not the place,” barks 1, “to go
all Sophocles. (‘Call no man lucky unless he’s dead.’)”
“But that wasn’t the line,” 2 objects. “It’s
‘Call no man lucky till he has passed
the borders of this life secure from pain.’ The Greeks
were always so wordy.” 3’s finger
an ill-placed switch. Which, if he pulled it,
would void all air from the capsule.
He doesn’t, however, fearing this
would mean an even greater loneliness.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986; to be reissued by Red Hen Press) and Happiness (Story Line Press, 1998), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). In print, Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Poetry Quarterly Review, Magma (UK), Neon (UK), Orbis (UK), Armarolla, December, and elsewhere. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Big Pond Rumours (Canada), Misfit, OffCourse, Danse Macabre (2013 and 2015), and elsewhere.