The spooks have left the facility
just over the line
in Maryland. Russian weeds
(you can tell by their stealth) and
dust from the Caliphate
are occupying the parking lot.
There was never a sign
to remove, except the generic one
of government. Orange steel prongs
still fiercely guard
the driveway. A picnic table warps.
Driving past, one saw them
there or on benches by the aging brick
at lunchtime: knit sweaters,
skirts. Glasses, pills
no doubt, a stoop;
the young among them
quickly taking on
the ordinary tone. But the true self
pocketed the silenced
pistol, slipped the drive
from the clothes of the sated
sleeping target, was the consummating missile;
while another peered
downhill at the willows
that were and remain out of bounds.
Notations of nearby torture: walls,
a table no more solid
than what he works on, leeks
like bones beneath a skull;
then after Normandy, small plates of cherries.
In ‘46 in Antibes the latter
give way to sea urchins – unprepossessing,
vulgar, self-possessed. They become brown stars.
Attend great vegetable breasts
and feasts of eel and squid
and the owl (hurt, from the second floor
of the castle, his new studio)
that becomes a model. A photo shows
both sets of eyes. But the oval that perches
on armrests and pecks
at frames is watchful. Like Françoise,
who yields at last, moves in. Her features resist.
Satyrs and fauns and centaurs dance for her,
a helix with a tambourine.
He considers what to give the Communists,
what not. A poet-Stalin. Later, a dove.
(One bull that year may be America.)
The sea calls from an excited yellow.
Her face extends like a horse, becomes
an arm, a cantilever brooding
on pyramids, eggs and spheres.
The fauns with their hyphen eyes play double flutes
from when Antibes was called Antipolis.
Their smile is not inane but terrifying,
without innocence, duplicity, or harm.
Françoise is pregnant. Before they return
(briefly) to Paris, he paints
on 12/25 a carved grey block on grey,
one end incised with a partial stickman,
another with grapes. 12/26
a more dramatically sculpted block
against cold beige, grapes again
but a loud skull. The next day a skull,
weirdly resembling a flashdrive,
with which Picasso finished my first year.
SHADE OF THE TREES
He was here as a prisoner
in ’44 – ‘46. On the ship
he had sung and acted up
with the rest – a brief furlough
at the enemy’s expense! – but on the train,
crossing the vast green land
with all its cars, he understood
it would win, and accepted that,
dully, like most things. (Not everything;
his family, actually his whole village,
had a fey streak.) The farmer
he was assigned to, immense
and cold, was a familiar figure, his own role
familiar, and soon the farmer said,
“Well, you know one end of a cow
from the other”; and the soldier,
who had learned that much English,
smiled. Nights were hot,
with innumerable loud enormous
bugs, though there was such a wealth
of pesticide! Blacks lived, walked, ate,
made their amusing savage
music at the edge of what he saw.
They occasioned bad dreams,
till he realized that even he
was higher than they. On free
half-days, he wrote halting letters,
and studied moss and trees. Once
the boss and his silent wife
took him to a kind of religious service
in a tent. But the crying
and shrieking, the strange waved salute,
disturbed him, and he was not forced
to return. After the victory,
he was allowed to roam the town.
The graveyard beyond it
seemed old, though the dates
were recent, compared to those in his village.
And many graves (he had learned
some history) were those of traitors …
Beneath that pale moist sky,
he felt how the dead here were
not past but future dead
and there was scarcely enough room for them.
The Wandering Jew isn’t Jewish
but Buddhist. (Finds the role easier.)
His version of the myth
of his origins is strange, surprisingly
upbeat, but he long since forgot it.
Works these days as a bouncer
at the club that took over
the ground floor of a famous hotel
on Lonely Street. (That hotel, by the way,
was supposed to be a boarding house,
but no one cooperated, cooking
or cleaning. Now the rooms
are empty and, rumor has it,
the kitchen is sealed, breeding God knows what.)
They call him by some Chinese-sounding
syllable or other. A little guy,
but there’s nothing he doesn’t know
about locks, throws, pressure points,
crippling and killing touches. (Watch him
in action, and you’d think the natural state
of whatever sized human body
is bouncing off walls or screaming in pain.)
He prefers, however, to defuse
tensions with laughter, mind-games, and a kind
of instantaneous seduction. Meanwhile he mans
the rope. The club
is amazingly popular
for that part of town. Fulgurous light,
heavy metal. Some people
crawl up in their last blood, limos drop
off others. If you ask him about the show,
he’ll shrug. It’s magic. An interesting sort of
pole-dance. A strip down to X-rays.
Perhaps it isn’t a show
at all but an opium den. In any case
the spotty light results from the waving
tentacles of an ultimate black hole,
both male and female at the heart of being.
He giggles. If you ask him about his wanderings,
he’ll talk and talk but it’s all bullshit.
To the general effect that they were bullshit.
The colors are muted jungle.
What’s happening is that broad leaves
overlap. Then their points,
tendrils, hesitantly declare
themselves to be the legs
of wide insects, and there are eyes in there,
looking. So that they aren’t being
absorbed by the forest floor. Perhaps
some muddy transcendence is going on,
and they’re becoming crystal.
So that it’s that rarest
(or so we were taught) of tribal things,
an individual sensibility, an artist
in our sense, who made this. Imagine him
or her, half-mad, sardonic-funny.
Actually, the culture behind him
is what and where? Were influences fused?
The rim of the cup rests more than half
the way down. You contemplate all those shared
germs. And Evans-Pritchard’s description
of how the main wife of a chief rinsed
a visitor’s gourd with her piss. Then you see
and feel that it isn’t baked clay
at all, but plastic. A cleverly faked
antiquity? No, a real product!
So that you can finally put to rest
nostalgia for older worlds and “authenticity.”
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, was published in March 2015 by Prolific Press. Another collection, LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT, to be published by Smokestack Books (UK), 2018. Pollack has appeared inHudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland),Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark,etc. Recent Web publications in Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Camel Saloon, Kalkion, Gap Toothed Madness, Triggerfish. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University. Poetics: neither navelgazing mainstream nor academic pseudo-avant-garde.