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