Two Poems — Poetry by Frederick Pollack

Fifth Georgic

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.



Innocent Abroad

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.


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