Frederick Pollack – 6 poems



Kliban imagined Our Lady

appearing to a Volkswagen

parked at a one-hour meter

in Denver. One assumes she had her reasons:

a message too urgent

to take venue and audience sufficiently into

account. Any secular intellectual

might sympathize.


There are cases still more extreme.

Universal consciousness

suddenly befalls one

of those attenuated stickmen made

to writhe by hot air at used-car lots.

He understands everything.

He knows where the others are.

The answers are so terrible

he becomes at last one with his dance,

but even more alienated

from his eager open painted eyes

and smile. Preaching also to windshields.



The Stowaway


A voice, insinuating, loathsome,

came over the comms: “In ancient times,

small groups in bad situations –

an open lifeboat, cave-ins –

often hallucinated

another member, always calm and helpful.

In many cases they called him Shepherd.

Later they may have viewed him as an angel,

but I make no claim to that. You can call me Shepherd.”

What was so bad about the voice?

It was educated, in an old, elitist way, and

relaxed. The captain, whose job

and joy it was portentously to state

the obvious, announced, “We have a stowaway”

and called for teamwork; he and the others

thinking what the Head Office

would do to them for this, and covertly

selecting whom to blame. They

conferred. They checked readings, logs,

storage units, food and oxygen

consumption. Were issued sidearms,

and headsets that, once activated,

erased fear, superstition, and

concern about career, leaving only

purpose. They found him

in the lounge, beside a viewport, looking down

at the planet. Vegetation there

was purple, much of it now black

from mining. “Freeze!” yelled someone. He

smiled. Was oddly wispy, antique

clothes without a logo,

dyed by the old red dwarf; hardly there

when they upped the lighting. They tased him:

nothing. Zipties passed through him.

Their focused anger fought its bounds. He

smiled. The AI identified

what he said next as propaganda

issued to soldiers in an ancient war: “You should

regard the enemy as someone

who has killed your father, burned your house, dishonored

your mother. On him you may discharge

the load of misery and frustration

you have carried with you all your life.”





I had arranged a few objects

on the setback bricks

atop the old-fashioned fireplace.

A blue Tunisian plate.

A Baule mask. A small sculpture,

which only when you looked at it

looked shapeless, by a sculptor

who had lived upstairs of my father.

This was after

I had scrubbed with a wire brush

as much grime as I could

from the fireplace, which had burnt

nothing in decades and never would.


Then I realized that something like

a window or a mirror

was there, and that beyond it lay

an almost identical

but clean and working hearth. The plate

was the same, the mask better and not

inherited, the artwork

by some big name and rather dull,

the room a charming nook. Mine was my flat.

I could almost see him.

He could almost see me, and was

amused, not very interested, then gone.

I wondered: were we both evil?





Their names remembered like old phone-numbers,

or vanished, though the face remains,

and the last ambiguous laugh, or request for a loan …

Best to regard them as scientists, explorers,

lost somewhere. One discovered

the effect of forty acid trips

in one semester on a mind

that might have rivaled Goethe’s. One

who loathed computers when they appeared

became their master, hidden in that fortress.

One researched for ten years with Scholastic rigor

unrequited love, then boringly,

hermetically, theorized women. And, finding

profession, promotion, family, one found me

a vestigial organ, subject to infection, best

removed. But the cases

that keep me up, trying to remember names,

cafés, disputes, are less clear …

It’s only certain that the fault was mine.


Explorers, certainly, for all of us

“moved.” I imagine them

in towns I never visited, every turn

of every street available on screens

but where the later, all-revealing face

never appears, while

the googled bio seems a fantasy …

Scientists, too; for they learned

new accents, tastes, ways of accommodating

and dying. In any case

the dullest will bequeath ten thousand facts,

I a few mysteries.





Immune to its charms, ignorant of its names,

I drive into the countryside.

Odors of vegetables and animals.

Hay-fever, chaperone of intellect.

I bear in a cardboard box the relics

of the deceased, suggesting only innocence:

a past, that is, not canceled promise.

The house is as I expect, expecting little,

in need of paint to hide its other needs.

And, knocking, I must remember whether

son, daughter, or whoever is in the box,

for that can influence my reception.

Which will inevitably be bad,

though at first I’m offered a chair and awful coffee

and gaze at pious slogans, framed or carved,

I privately decode, my look approving.

Try to grasp, I urge, that I didn’t know him

or her. I’m not the police. I come

long after the police, who were and would be kinder;

it’s we around this desperately polished

table who are the cold case now.

She meant to be good, quit drugs, help people,

he to be rich, successful, male –

successful in any case, a star, a patriot!

These toys, that scrap of diary, this key

to a long-emptied safe deposit box

reveal if properly interpreted

their good intentions. The city

was cruel, but with a cruelty you wanted …

At which the beating comes. I’m prepared,

faith in non-violence never questioned;

and when, exhausted, he, they stop,

I see in them through my remaining

eye that agonizing choice of troubles,

whether to dispose of me or learn.



Junior Moment


As I awoke I wasn’t sure

what the times demanded, what diction to use.

Slang flashed and vanished

like quanta. Was a word meant

to be placed in a sentence or replace it?

And with what emphasis, what shrug or rictus?

Worse was the question

of persona and tone. Once there had been

a noncommittal caution,

a mask of belonging. Still earlier

in my genetic background lay

a touching earnestness that coincided

oddly with the “hardboiled” mode.

(At such a distance the term confused me:

surely it meant a way of being eaten?)

Later there came a frantic expressiveness

that may have been honesty, shot through

with saving moments of rage. This yielded

to a sullenness, which deepened.

How should I speak, who should I be,

I wondered, when I entered

the cafeteria, went to my locker

for my blazer, my hoodie?

Swung from bed; was surprised to encounter

my cane, my denture.



Frederick Pollack is author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986; to be reissued by Red Hen Press) and Happiness (Story Line Press, 1998), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). In print, Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Poetry Quarterly Review, Magma (UK), Neon (UK), Orbis (UK), Armarolla, December, and elsewhere. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Big Pond Rumours (Canada), Misfit, OffCourse, Bindweed (June 2016) and elsewhere.

By Heavenly Flower Publishing

Bindweed Magazine publishes two anthologies each year: Midsummer Madness and Winter Wonderland. Bindweed is run as a not for profit, labour of love endeavour by an author/poet couple: Leilanie Stewart and Joseph Robert. Bindweed can be found at

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