Letheredge, known as “that idiot,”
announces with his usual cheery
puerility that he wants to
“make something of his life.”
That fall the Club receives
a tinted photo from some ghastly
river town. (“Is that a crocodile?”)
Rotting docks, ragged somnolent people,
an X incised at the edge.
That’s where I sit. The local rum
has a toxic charm I should not be able
to resist if I tried. Supplies, I think,
are sorting themselves out, and we may be
off by All Souls’. Thus Letheredge
in his crabbed, childish hand;
the rest concerns his invaluable
man Gómez. Then, for a year,
nothing. At times we discuss
alerting some consul (“where?”)
or his family (“had he any?”).
Recollections of his follies become
fond but remain unspoken;
one senses we are saving them
for when he is known to be gone.
He returns one afternoon,
having lost several stone,
quite brown; he looks, not drawn so much
as having lately recovered.
remains, but it’s hard,
in that hale frame, to tell if it’s less
or more. “Gómez got me
out of that hole. He carried me,
you know. I was damned lucky
to avoid gangrene. I gave him
enough money to set the family up
as local gentry!” But what, we ask,
were you doing there?
“I fell in. The undergrowth had rotted.
I was knocked out a moment,
and then, of course, I couldn’t stand.
Enough light filtered through that I could see
the murals. It’s apparently quite a find –
I’ll be written up! There’s a chieftain,
a king. He’s very red, sitting cross-legged
on a cushion, his hair is in
a top-knot, his index finger raised
as if he’s teaching;
his mouth is open. The people below him,
captives I guess, look quite
miserable. One especially – he’s staring
at his hand, something terrible
has been done to the nails, they’re dripping
widely separated drops of blood;
his mouth is open like the king’s.
And I thought – I was in pain, you know,
not thinking well – that they looked much alike,
except the king was fatter;
and that I resembled both of them,
though I couldn’t say which one more.”
Ode to Cereals
By the grace of hallowed dead,
unquestioning work, and our planes
and agents ever on watch, I will never –
to quote an old oath – be hungry again. Any
bike-ride under sketchy trees
in the new suburb is a drive in a new
car. Unexpected grace
descends, though the reassuring humdrum
remains, and there appear FROSTED FLAKES.
COUNT CHOCULA has the ahistorical,
timeless appeal of horror.
The brown of ancient stains, sublimed
by fresh arterial violet, spreads
as swiftly as electronics
from vaguely cellular platforms, bringing
adepts where they wish to go:
adolescence, the trans-parental realm;
and is the true milk of childhood.
Then, after the crazed mini-vampire
and all-accepting working-class
tiger, select spirits rally
to a pirate shorn of violence and the terror
of age: CAP’N CRUNCH. In his eyes
the glint of gold, the greed for it, are shared,
are generous. Gold is the special tang
in the taste, the spiky texture,
the dust at the bottom of the box.
Let there be no animadversions
about poison. With or without
blueberries, banana, satisfaction
follows the last or the last extra, “heaping,”
spoonful, clicks like a tab;
it’s a matter of digestion, of pacing,
and I lift my eyes to the clock.
About the Poet
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness (Story Line Press), and a collection, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press). Another collection, Landscape with Mutant, was published in 2018 by Smokestack Books (UK). Many other poems in print and online journals.