Three Poems by Frederick Pollack

From the Astral Plane
I labored under the impression
that I was asking for help,
and that a future, penitent and potent,
heard. I didn’t merely
cite global warming and the rest,
but with passionate spontaneous eloquence
metaphorized, personified. The dead eyes
of Republicans, the willful gleeful
self-injection of lies, the howls of forests
and coral, the continents
and cultures devoted to rape, the hungry,
the lost. I didn’t request
specifics, I trusted
that they who cared would know, and meanwhile
brought tears to my own eyes.

Then very gradually realized,
seeing through fog, that my listeners
wore celluloid collars
and absurd voluminous skirts
and attitudes, and were accustomed to being
rather dirty. In the gaslight, they didn’t
even have the excuse
of trying to summon lost sons
in 1919; their kids would do that. And meanwhile,
through the desultory twitches
of the board, the ambiguous knocks,
the medium’s censorship,
my words were coming through
as gibberish. To the extent they grasped
the mixup, the ladies were outraged
that I was not their intended
departed, the men
that I couldn’t at least
give them tips on tomorrow’s prices or races.

But what I went on to perceive
was worse: they had somehow created me.
My language, concerns,
I had not existed
before the rapping, the joining of hands.
From out of the fog had come my century, and even
this crappier one I’ll die in.

Nothing has mystery
where there’s no curiosity. The tourist
stays in a midrange airbnb
some blocks from the waves. After
settling in he’s in costume:
pressed shorts, black knee-high socks (although
he scuttles swiftly, without cart or cane),
and proper wizened form. He rents
a midsized hybrid, twice a day
drives the length of the Avenue to eat
at the famous places. He enters
(from the street, it isn’t difficult) the garages
of condos, where the building’s mighty
pillars show; exhibits
a mild but allover thrill, feeling, sniffing
the crevices in the concrete, rusting
rebar. (Streets are often awash, vehicles
leave wakes; he savors
perversely the flood in his sneakers.) On various
pretexts he attends
board meetings, nods as residents
protest projected meddling and expense.
But mostly he walks the sixty or twenty
yards of sand between towers and sea,
smiling at bathers, his gaze
turning from pitted walls and relaxing
balconies to the waves
and back. Enjoying
a double vision, the beach overlaid
with those same towers, half- or wholly submerged,
lying on each other, some remarkably whole;
for gods remain godlike, even when decayed.
How often (it’s a real question)
have I sat on a bed or couch,
one arm or awkwardly both
around someone, or in a facing chair
not touching
while incoherent sobs,
terrible inappropriate
wit, or dulled endless
memory poured out –
not directed at me,
me only there
by chance, the chance of relationship
perhaps, but tangential,
just passing through –
thinking that the limits
of language and/or
compassion are nearer,
narrower than people admit;
and that I will hear the same voice
(who else’s?) when the time comes,
offering what help
it can.
About the Poet

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both Story Line Press; the former reissued 2022 by Red Hen Press. Two collections of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, (Prolific Press, 2015) and LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Pollack has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Magma (UK), BateauFulcrumChiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc.  Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire  Review, Mudlark, Rat’s Ass Review,  Faircloth Review, TriggerfishModern Poetry Quarterly Review (2015, 2017), etc.