Frederick Pollack


The sun is a great neurotic.
It regrets that, when its time comes,
it will be unable to go nova
and rise for months in someone else’s day.
It could not, however, abide
a white dwarf
companion sucking its substance, which novas require;
and is reconciled, barely, to becoming
a red giant, absorbing
at least some inner planets. Then what?
The option of being a black hole –
that spectacular collapse;
outliving everyone, though negatively –
attracts, yet is barred to it. So, a white dwarf
itself; in the fullness of time,
perhaps, a black one –
still envious (of neutron stars, etc.),
until the final chill.

The spots, the flares, the magnetic storms are signs
of the sun’s petulance,
like the amber borders of the leaves,
the khaki grass this summer, the sense
of a wordless demand for love, evaded, mocked.

The Liberal

They settle in. Testosterone
and an obvious need for decision
as to who gets top bunk, top spot
in rapes, main share of the food, etc.,
reciprocally cause each other. Plus
ideology: Aryan Christian types,
more common-or-garden
bigots, and other believers contend
for corporate spokesmanship. The few
real corporate figures who weren’t
sufficiently faceless to escape
my dragnet try to act
like regular, prayerful, duckhunting guys,
but learn that distance is the price of love.
(In another block, the women
find their own ways to hierarchalize.)
The room, initially clean enough,
soon smells the way these places do.

When I allow a meeting,
manifesting myself
on an indestructible screen high in the wall
as a rigid golden figure like an Oscar,
they get it together, proving
the ultimate necessity of reason.
They elect a charismatic or Opus Dei
Father to follow my directions through
the wall, to my universe. When his
anathemas, prayers, impotent
violence are exhausted he remarks
that I’m as much a prisoner as they;
that unless perfect love casts out fear
there is no end short of eternity.
I tell him to preach this to his flock.
Predictably he won’t accept the point;
sees only power and a loathsome pity
sculpted into a stylized golden man.

So through that monitor the inside
of the mind like a warden watches
the outside pace and hate;
and cannot look away, and broadcasts
Tolerance and Rights and Science,
the whole dispirited reflex rosary,
to no avail. I think my charges, clients,
(masters perhaps?) are worthless
because they doubt these things;
they know I think this of them
and therefore despise me and will never
listen to anything I say, and are therefore
worthless. The mind holds them
the way a captive is held
one doesn’t know what to do with
but can’t allow to roam unsupervised
(which is why anyone is kept in hell
or, really, any of the nearer places).

Frederick Pollack © 2012

The Forest

It often happens that the parents
of schizophrenics, when they have been robbed
too often, or (as it happens) terrorized
in their own house for hours, beaten
(or at least weakly, almost absently
punched), and the words
the schizophrenic says about them, desperate, heated,
yet banal and capricious, have drawn tears
too often, change. Change locks, obtain
a restraining order, tell the schizophrenic
they cannot help him any more,
not to come by, they love him; then change
their phone number. And the schizophrenic
comes by, pounds on the door, is arrested
and spends perhaps three nights, before
he’s released, in a verminous
uncrowded place where many schizophrenics
once lived, then were released
to beautiful clean halfway houses
that were never built but existed
integrally in dreams. And the parents,
as previously noted, change:
their faces become still, their affect flat,
empirical when they describe
the treatment they received and the schizophrenic
received, or didn’t. The death of a child
often separates parents, but this
overarching, effectively nameless
stratum of things, which aspires
to the ubiquity and necessity
of death, creates a defensive bond. And one
or both of them will think
(as if to stay in touch) of the schizophrenic
out there somewhere, lousy, hurt
or dead (which is a way of being
hurt), and may still wonder what
he perceives. In Sarban’s novel,
at the trees’ edge a Chief Forester smiles
terribly as his guards attach
fur to the bound limbs, horns
to the head of a prisoner. Hunters
watch, but tonight will only carouse. And the Chief Forester
strikes off the bonds and cries,
Thy lust is to be free? So shalt thou be!
Free of the Forest!

Frederick Pollack © 2012