Fred Pollack


Hegel says that Diogenes,
vainly seeking an honest man,
is unknowingly seeking a man
of an earlier type, bypassed by History.

Diogenes, however, has
just found his honest man.
Clings to his shoulder, laughingly tells him
what Hegel said. “Who says I’m dishonest?”

the guy yells. Casts off
and punches out Diogenes, calls him
a perv who never held
a job or a sword, Hegel a typical egghead,

and dies in a shootout, a hero of the Right.

Results May Vary


I was privileged to live
in immense luxury (it never seemed
that great to me) on the eve
of the Sixth Extinction-Level Event.
The Arctic ice-free in summer, Antarctica
thawing, most of the coral
and 60% of vertebrates
dead since 1970 – but such phrases
sound like scolding,
and no one wants to be scolded. Yet
through subtle conduits, the anguish of frogs
and bears, the background noise
of energy in the atmosphere
seep into culture, and even I,
soigné as I am, have grown rude.
Observing my precipitous decay
with a risus sardonicus that is neither classical
nor Decadent nor brave nor
in any way generous, only
glad that I’ll die before you, and in
some comfort. Like drowned bayous,
deserts and wildfires, methane belching from tundra,
my hate overflows its banks;
my “narcissism of small differences”
(countless as the signs
at neofascist rallies
I watch on TV
with rage greater than theirs because informed)
flaps in the wind. And leaving places
I’ll never visit
and/or won’t be invited to
again, I do once-unimaginably
vile things … “Made you look!”


Orange lilies, pink alstroemeria,
one white rose and a ring
should do. Walking, I nervously
rearrange with my free hand
my straw hat, which alternates
with an upscale kerry and a bowler
Then, ducking into door- and alleyways,
I change my look: thin eyebrows, small straight nose –
or the originals? Compress (there’s a valve) gut and butt.
Lengthen legs and stride, then think
better of it. (Springs and struts.)
I wish there were a module for morale –
some slow-released hormone – and for the day:
Monet clouds, a brass band in the park, a park,
and a few last horse-drawn carts amidst
the Fords would be preferable
to this grey.
Will you say yes? Oh, do – before
I sense I’ve drifted back
into some Futurist future or Constructivist fancy,
and flights of biplanes mutate into drones,
and some medley of electronics,
first centralized and broadcast, then autonomous,
takes over regulating me.
Oh the Wellsian crowd is a Deco mirror
I wish we were gazing into
side by side, nude and organic;
but the gloom of the day and the world’s prospects
have furnished only these flowers, as real as you.

Fred Pollack © 2016


The operative word is “I” or “buy”;
they amount to the same thing.
With the decline of malls, malls are occupied
by artists, the lowest kind of squatter;
and these are the lowest kind of artist,
the audience – pretentious dreamers.
They drift through garbage, Everything Must Go
signs, needles, greasy wrappers.
They nap on the torn couches,
dream of Fifth Avenue, the secondhand smoke,
the contact high of money,
and gaze into the few working displays.
Dignity, a glazed bowl.
The give and take of discourse, a top.
The unarticulable early hope,
luggage(?). One place offers
(strange firms creep into dying malls)
a “Love Machine.” The living dead,
readers, viewers, cognoscenti flock
to that window. They expect something
like an ancient fax or 3D printer,
concave, convex, and soulful; but what’s there
is a man. He stares vulnerably out,
spreads his arms as if to embrace
the abandoned throng and the sullen vista
behind them. What the world
needs now, what the world
by definition needs is prosperity,
the carnal index of transcendent love;
moved by that vision, he begins to sing.


In her own much-loved work, the editor
moves from emotion A to emotion B.
It’s apparently heroic for her to have
the first emotion, and the second,
and to move. I can’t grasp those emotions.
Not much happens, but there’s a lot of nature.
Someone or perhaps no one is there,
a betraying, reassuring presence.
For years before I learned the word “reflux,”
I was troubled by heartburn.
Once walked at 3 AM to a 7/11
for Rolaids and the sort of high-carb crap
responsible for the condition. Once saw a diagram
of acid-producing cells in the stomach;
they looked like alien weapons or flowers.
When I chewed Tums or Rolaids or, in a pinch,
chugged milk, I visualized
the meeting between acid and chalky alkaline;
the brief cooling or neutrality
was blessed, though knowing that
the result is technically a “soap”
caused qualms. This internal oil-war
changed some of my esophageal cells
to stomach cells. That’s bad, said the doc
who stuck a tube down my throat,
then told me to take Prilosec daily.
Which stopped the problem for decades,
though recently I’ve heard it causes Alzheimer’s.
When she encounters my work, the beloved editor
reacts first with a smile,
like any intellectual confronting terror.

Fred Pollack ©2016