Blackbox manifold

Issue 14: Frederick  Pollack

Level Best

Possibly one of that planet’s suns

licked it, while the others, jealous,

trying for reconfiguration,

stroked. Then some exotic, manic

current came from elsewhere.

With gravity – dreaming of turbulent,

safe, colorful gas-clouds but stuck

with ten Earthfuls of rock –

that was enough for life,

then sentience. The only natural silicon types

in the entire Local Group crawl

(they don’t see it as crawling)

between meter-high mountains

on sulfur-yellow plains.

(They perceive other colors.) Magma,

spewing weakly out then riding

a foot or two on the wind,

spatters them, tastes of nostalgia,

is the past, is the idea

of wanting. They leave bits of themselves

behind, in a kind

of hope both general and personal:

they breed with these. Their wars

are occasioned by and leave

nutritionless wastes; these are

forgotten, are forgetfulness.

Their cities are brief remembered parties.

Their stars are talkative – they’re in the middle

of a giant cluster – and their math first-rate:

without much interest,

they have deduced us

and everyone else. (Perhaps the concept

tree would attract them –

slow vertical systems! – but less than that

of salt.) They live their poetry:

epics of cumulative wandering

towards fanciful, always-provisional

goals. Elegiac statistics

when too much gets burnt or flakes off.

They plan to survive the heat-death,

the universe.

Deny that they lack erotic appeal.

At Anchor

Drifting at anchor at twilight,

sometimes the exhausted sea,

sometimes the city’s few lights

our backdrop. Across the water

a meditative music without beat,

heavy on flutes, derived from nothing,

suggesting nothing, not smugly

“spiritual” but potentially annoying,

stops. I don’t know who the others are,

they don’t know who I am,

but I establish myself quickly

with a quip, short works, a judicious

quotation (from Jünger, that the smell

of the sea is so vivid

because it combines birth and death), and

a reduction, easily enough learned

if need be, of self. The major

struggle is against being distracted

by the beauty of the women,

which is not, of course, their reason

for being. We discuss how art

could happily regress

now to a kind of classicism, subtly,

hermetically distinct versions

of a few themes. Cherry blossoms.

New gods. Perhaps poets

will each adopt one,

a specific, researched one

of the dead and speak for him or her,

“as they always have anyway”

says someone, pleasing me.

For my part, I renounce

loudly my pervasive gimmick

of dialogues among the dead, making them

curious, present, combative. Then one

of the women, who I gather

took the lead in refurbishing

this yacht, tells how mirrors

embossed with beer-labels, bins of cocaine,

hideous fabrics and videos followed

their owner overboard.

Frederick Pollack is author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. A collection of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, 2015 from Prolific Press. He has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Main Street Rag, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Blackbox/Manifold, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire  Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc. He’s adjunct professor in creative writing at George Washington University.