3 Poems by Frederick Pollack, Self-Starter, Gran Via & Something I Said

Self-Starter
 
(i.)
 
A superhero from a distant
franchise of the Marvel universe
finds himself in a labyrinth.
A few turns, retracings,
very human moments
of indecision confirm that’s what
it is. His great secret motivator,
contempt, rises (not breaking
the mild, righteous surface);
and with a combination
of fire from his eyes
and steely blows he breaks through
wall after ivy-covered wall.
(In a straight line. Diagonal to
the lie of the maze. It’s unclear why
he doesn’t fly. Contempt.)
Shells, fossils, bas-reliefs
dislodged by his violence fall among
the smoking bricks and vines. (The point
of a labyrinth is terror, despair;
why art? The superhero doesn’t stop
to ask. An irritant.)
A last kick and he’s out. Somewhere – he can
resume his universe-saving
from anywhere. But for a moment
he’s tired,
his mood less than triumphant.
This has happened before; he views it
as a tribute paid to everything mortal.
And wonders what his enemy placed
this time at the center
of the maze to consume him.
 
 
(ii.)
 
Gran Via
 
The famous sights must still
grace faded glossy calendars
on walls somewhere.
Another horse and king. Sword pointing
the dead behind him
towards death – there’s no point, otherwise.
It might be instructive
to remove the bronze kings, keep the horses.
 
Decide at any point
that the approaching pretty park
will be pretty, the stuff between
interesting, and turn back.
You will at once destroy
tourism and the basis
(Baudelaire, the flâneur, etc.)
of modern poetry.
 
Wherever you are, forgive the locals.
You remind them that time doesn’t have
a long grey beard but white stubble.
 
 
(iii.)
 
Something I Said
 
It’s worse
than remarks that ended
job interviews, dates, jobs, relationships.
(She sat there crying or enraged,
and since I’m nice I apologized
for months or the duration.)
I turn from whoever it is,
staring and pale, and myself. There are depths
of self and wit I’d rather weren’t.
But a waitress here with hors-d’oeuvres,
though impeccably trained, has dropped them,
the tray aghast in midair.
A general has almost spilled his drink.
A celebrity ages. Noted lobbyists
and cokeheads, always in motion, stop.
Hidden children whisper. From the terrace
a wolfhound enters, steals some human food,
and gazes up with doubtful sympathy.
(In the distance, workers
erecting a tent for the raffle grin,
but they’re from the past, some old novel.)
Across the salon our host and hostess
stand motionless, still gracious.
I should bottle it, I think,
by which I mean keep silent but connote
researching, mastering this skill,
inventing time travel and returning
to stymie history with well-placed words.
 
 

 
 
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 , Poetry Life and Times (2015) and elsewhere.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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BFF. A Poem by Frederick Pollack.

 
 
Bored, with the boredom of eternity,
Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade,
and Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch
hang out. They have little in common –
nothing, according to Deleuze –
but shared experience of psych wards
creates a bond. And Sade
is always tickled by the moralism
of his scholarly socialist philosemitic pal.
(“Contracts” for bondage-and-discipline sessions,
the invention of the “safe word”–
parbleu!) Masoch for his part
finds the Frenchman’s wit
instructive, and accepts with grace
his constant teasing; it fulfills a certain need.
 
Like other dead white Europeans,
they float over to America
(which, they have heard, is diverting and unserious).
Sade preens: “My principles have triumphed!
What other people is as devoted to freedom?”
His companion demurs. “It may seem so,
but note: the whip is unpopular,
hypocrisy remains the spice of shame,
tortures are generally banal, and women –
still bound to the paternalism you despised –
are seldom given equal rights to them.
This is far,” he adds, “from the vision
of your revolutionary pamphlet, Citizens!
Yet One More Effort If You Would Be Truly Republican!”
 
The mood of the mercurial marquis
turns. “They’re afraid of their masters,”
he sighs. “Whose existence” –
thus Masoch, disapprovingly – “they deny.”
They are not watching in real time,
ever-tedious, but from the long end of a spectrum
where essences appear like subtitles.
There the prevailing mood is an orange haze;
and the steady pop of small arms
a rhythmic growl, like the machinery
the two friends had expected.
Slowly they realize it is a machine,
dispensing souls to each side of the trigger
before they need determine their own nature.

 
Frederick Pollock 1
 
 
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, forthcoming in 2015 from Prolific Press. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.

 
 
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Housing. A Poem by Frederick Pollack

 
 
 
Dead poets wake in a tremendous castle,
all dark beams, fireplaces, stone stone stone.
Pop-era people flash on Middle-earth,
but older types (like Byron, deadly with boredom)
set them straight. They point out and explain
runes, the wolf and ouroboros
motifs, the giant scattered meadhorns
and outsized chairs – this is
Valhalla. Someone academic, peering
through a window-slit at a misty waste,
asks where the heroes are, who train by hacking
each other apart all day, then drink all night?
Not to mention the Valkyries …
And Coleridge, more than usually stoned,
laughs, Do you think someone would fight for us?
(At which Petőfi and D’Annunzio
frown.) But now the latest crop of dead
nag about dinner. Since most of the place is a freezer
and always full, they’re well-supplied
with venison and auroch, though Marianne Moore
says yet again she would kill for a salad.
Something possesses Ashbery, who tries
to pull an ornamental sword
from a wall, and collapses. Where –
someone asks inevitably – are the gods?
But not even the oldest inmate,
not Pound or the Beowulf-poet, knows
they are off forever trashing the Cabaret Voltaire.

 
 
Frederick Pollock 1
 
 
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, forthcoming in 2015 from Prolific Press. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.

 
 
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Word. A Poem by Frederick Pollack

 
Initially the inscription
was thought to be ideograms,
then letters, then some intermediate stage,
insofar as that progression
could be assumed, here. All admired
the whimsical beauty
of the forms, their discipline,
the paradoxical impression
of urgency. Computers
would soon enough resolve
the question and the larger mystery;
but some researchers
 
perversely wished
the issue could be left
to imagination, their sense
of what had been said.
They questioned if the matrix were, in fact,
cliff, or had once been a wall,
say of a palace. They felt,
given the strangeness, that it hardly mattered
if the obstacles were grit, heat, earthly
distances, or vacuum, cumbersome
suits, hundreds of light years and the problems
of work in vacuum and with so much past.
They wondered if the inscription
had been written by no one
but was itself life carving
itself, and whether they
were both the message and its addressee.

 
 
 
Fred Pollok
 
 
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, forthcoming in 2015 from Prolific Press. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.
 
 
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