Why not be honest? Style
is supposed to derive from content,
but what if you only want to strike
a certain tone? Reciting
fragmentary, nonsense phrases
in it for weeks
at unsatisfying private moments
without the ghost of an idea?
A note suitable for inscriptions
on walls, visible from a distance,
approached with unavoidable solemnity?
Or on coins, or above judges,
or sung by choirs robed in white or black,
standing for hours without complaint.
It’s impossible, at least for me, or now,
to imagine a suitable theme. Such work
would resemble the rare art
Republicans achieve – some movies, mostly,
whose hero is a sentimental,
self-sacrificing killer. Or it might imitate
those bas-reliefs that highly-paid,
otherwise talented sculptors produced
for Mussolini: a Roman soldier
on horseback, deadly but benign,
protecting a naked plowman who looks like him.
Each gazing presumably at distant
fields, hills, mountains,
with comparable sternness and
the illusion that there’s something eternal about them.
In po-biz, when fame descends,
it takes the form of a language,
not of, but as, a country.
Some people speak it back to me
as fast and as impatiently
as Parisian French. Towards them I adopt
a stolid drawl, Midwest
but as annoying as the South, deeply pondering
everything. Backdrops change –
warm beer and little electric heaters,
enormous smoky barbeques,
grunge – but not the eventual reception:
darlings who write about starlings
staring as if incomprehension
alone would make me go away, me returning
the look. Gays, minorities promptly
losing, then faking interest. Postmodernist
hipsters not even faking. Department honchos
barely seeing me past the specter
of budget cuts. Old lefties sidling up
to pool nostalgia. Until, introduced, applauded,
with whatever bottled water
and squealing mic, I utter
a much-rehearsed line:
“Often, the ideology of niceness
is most upheld by passive-aggressive swine.”
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. A collection of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, was published in March 2015 by Prolific Press. Pollack has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum,Chiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, etc. Recent Web publications in Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Camel Saloon, Kalkion, Gap Toothed Madness, Triggerfish. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University. Poetics: neither navelgazing mainstream nor academic pseudo-avant-garde.