Frederick Pollack

Cockaigne

Who would want to go

on a side-trip? And where?

Some dolmen-place or barrow,

static and gloomy? Some view

of or from a mountain—arduous;

and the sight of a stag might rouse

a sense of unvirility or the wish,

long precluded, to hunt?

Or to some other House—

introductions needed, drinks delayed

and wrong, ideas and different tastes

like sudden hedgehogs? Better to stay here—


where boredom and satiety

are shelved (as, elsewhere, worry

and need); where a glimpse

at certain hours of pajamas, bathrobe,

or less is as much a game

as the gown and tails of evening.

Where one sprawls at ease—

at secret moments not alone—

on sofas that seem to multiply 

like the rooms, and laughter banishes

anything as rude

as age or cruelty or money.

Tent

Of course it’s just an image; I’m not one

to sleep on stones and plastic,

View with humor then

this pour of stars into a canyon;

despite low light pollution,

it’s barely half the ancient sky. Someone stirs

in the scrub (so intense 

the solitude, I won’t say “something”); 

someone else, who was probably hovering,

swoops. So even now—

no wind, no moon, 3 AM—

death goes on. Alarming eyes

reflected, once, my fire while it burned,

and on the crumbling rim

I saw the silhouette

of one again being hunted to extinction.

What remains is that those half-

seen stars, and you and wolves 

and I are fragile, oversensitive,

undone by a laugh. 

The Perfected One

Actually he said little;

most was implied but clear enough.

I, in contrast, rambled. He seemed old

but with no loss of strength or competence—

older than would be possible for me.

There were hard words. One

combined “faith” and “physics”; he used it—

with a facial expression!—when I described

armed fools believing anything convenient,

dying as they marched. And when I attacked

the poetry of emotion, he employed

one among several registers of silence.

The tea was from something grown on “his” land.

The cup was stone. The furniture

resembled, what else, Danish Modern,

encouraged more to platonize itself.

He breathed, I eventually noticed,

like someone grateful for air. Showed enthusiasm

discussing the “block universe”—time

like layers of mica, holding my death, his,

erased and crumpled manuscripts, in stasis;

it was how, he said, he remembered it all.

The house invited but didn’t compel

light. Except for his few plants,

the view was beige and bare all the way

to the hills. Some distant ruins;

I think he was quoting when

he said that stones, though past their time,

still seek to grow like plants, unite like men.

The view—what else to say?—had an austere beauty,

the only sort there now will ever be.

Frederick Pollack is author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both from Story Line Press, the former to be reissued by Red Hen Press. He also has two collections of shorter poems, A Poverty of Words(Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Pollack’s work has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review and others and online in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Rat’s Ass Review, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, and others.