Issue 6: Frederick Pollack


If the sea returns, the monument

will have to sit on an island,

but in this era commands

a meadow.  Neither stone nor inscription

decay; are tangential to time;

what surrounds them is in but not of it.

Things like megatheria

groom their silken coats and stretch

to graze treetops, seemingly enjoying

the play of their enormous limbs

the more, the more slowly they move.

A creature combining

leopard and greyhound (it deserves

another name for greyhound, Windspiel,

“windgame”) chases

something vague to sight but not to smell

or taste.  Which runs without thought,

hence without fear, or pain when caught;

all its species are meat here.

For birds too, both of whose sexes

are loud and ostentatious,

all wingspreads soaring for play and a view.

The young of every kind appear

seldom, conserving numbers, and none are lost,

and each absorbs one waning consciousness,

which lends a cumulative depth. 

Beside streams, cats fight lazily,

the males without barbs, the females

enjoying more than pregnancy.

While in the woods, large and small

burrowers dig for no reason

but an intense inherent satisfaction.

Towards nightfall, one

approaches, flees, approaches, sniffs

the monument, investigating

the clawmarks incised there:

Never forgive.  Never forget.  Die hating.

Used Book

He’s a composite figure,

but wouldn’t mind that.  Expats,

poets, wanderers tend

to be or become compounds,

and he is all three.  Likes ports,

whether cities or villages.  Likes

to look at the sea from hills

and then from higher hills.

Stays, sometimes for years.

Finds someone unlike the last one,

and writes about her when he leaves,

and shows that to the next one,

who, whatever her language,

understands well enough.  Their contempt

for him only slightly exceeds

his own, which pervades

his work like a mistral.  When there’s war,

he arrives just after or leaves just before,

replacing “I” with bulletholes

in walls, stains on stones, and

the glimpsed emotional life

of some martyr.  In poems, that is.

Two lines: Since every bed, now, is rented,

no one can sleep soundly. 

Otherwise: his nostalgia for God

is less than for home or Communism.

Far from the critics he observes

the scene with undemonstrative disdain.

If we met he’d be charming, perversely

denying received wisdom, that only the poem

speaks.  Of course I speak, he’d say.

Of course you want to hear me.

And would in turn be charmed to learn

where I discovered him –

the unlikeliest shelf on earth,

between depressed antiques and spineless thrillers,

the discrepancy a measure of our worth.

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press.  He is an adjunct professor of creative writing at George Washington university, Washington, DC.