I'm Like Wow
They believe in getting on with their lives,
a creed they learned at the feet
of serial absent parents
or when they beat some juvie rap. Professors
who can’t get on with their lives
perceive the burden of their speech that staggers
forward like reggae,
their look of non-respect and non-contempt
that holds not even Culture in contempt.
It’s the sort of regret
that lets them know they’re getting on with their lives,
the precious unexperienced
experience, the unknown knowledge
that freedom is archons, celestial policemen, hustling one
into the traffic, saying, Move along.
Actually, as weeks pass,
slowly, after the election,
I stop caring. “Hope,” the word,
the emotion something to be sealed
and vanish like a wound…
A liberal, per se, awaits betrayal.
Not actual betrayal,
because one is only given,
carefully, ever, the illusion
of a promise. To hope is
to be infantilized: we are ruled
by adults; to be adult
means always already to be compromised.
Remembering which I stop caring,
having never compromised;
which would tell any political actor
that I have never acted.
At Thanksgiving, among other liberals,
judicious, hopeful, I zone out.
“You’re quiet today...” I’m thinking
of a show on the History Channel:
Hitler in a room
in the bunker, shells falling above,
contemplating a model
of Linz, the town near his birthplace,
remade into a metropolis
with his Tomb, his parents’ Tomb,
a Museum of stolen altarpieces
and Rembrandts, a Hotel with his name,
squares with his name, boulevards wider than anyone’s,
a Parteihof. Spotlights simulated
noon, twilight. Pasty, shaking,
he sat day and night, staring.
One can unfortunately understand. It was a parody
of an artist’s, a visionary’s farewell… but why
a parody? I would have liked justice
or triumph of any sort
to be open, flowing,
eager for input, feedback, but that wasn’t me.
So polluted, it can’t be water
I tread, am under, breathing,
knowing I shouldn’t be …
doors like old cardboard that
could mean escape but are
so rotted I put a hand through
and awake, shouting. Dreams
are cliché, but this one was
so bad, someone must pay.
I seek him later on a floor without
exit or elevator, the key
to all the doors behind each door
and every door locked tight.
Eugénio de Andrade
With envy enough to excuse
another poem about reading,
I read Levitin’s translation
of Eugénio de Andrade.
Who spoke with expertise
of the entrance to seasons,
of the specific diameter
of the smell of horses,
of a single immanent blade
of harvest. And I wonder
what analogue exists
for the child of cities
to earth, air, fire, and water
(fear, contempt, dependency, apathy)
or the poet’s beloved familiars
goats, sheep, birds, cicadas
(fools, fanatics, fascists and sociopaths).
Before what is no longer called
second childhood comes a second adolescence.
Women you won’t possess
drift as before
with drinks and bikinis
over the sand and into the lives of others,
just out of hearing
you needed, till you gave up needing to know.
The world slips sideways like a beachball,
whether seen from waves or dunes
or the delusive shade
of an umbrella, which lets through
the deadliest ray.
Again the fear you won’t be heard
however you pose and shout,
the posing vital for without it
is only nothingness, which wants you,
and childhood, which cast you out.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. Other poems in print and online journals. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.