Powerless to be Born

A poem by Fred Pollack

In the dream, I both was and wasn’t

an intolerable uniformed bureaucrat

(but everyone wore uniforms)

responsible for lawns around a ministry.

I didn’t mow them myself.

I roamed with whistle and clipboard, supervising

the unreliable Socialists

who tended them. My technique

was lightning inspections at all hours

throughout the twelve-hour day.

I tallied bags of fertilizer.

I allocated water.

I bowed at ladies with bustles and parasols,

strolling the grounds; saluted gentlemen;

clicked heels for soldiers, spoke when they asked

of my old and present battles.

In the dream I rested on a bench and dreamed.

A crowd had gathered and was dancing.

At first they wore traditional garb,

then factory rags, then scanty alien things,

then next to nothing, nothing.

I remonstrated, blew my whistle.

They laughed, but that may just have been high spirits.

In the dream I could not assimilate

the fact that my Ministry, all the ministries,

were gone; there was only grass

I screamed at them to vacate.

Patrick Caulfield

A poem by Fred Pollack

When Pop Art crossed
the pond, it paused –
perhaps from British phlegm
or self-doubt, or perhaps
they wondered: Need one celebrate
every aspect of commodity
fetishism; must one replicate
glut? And Caulfield posed
a hanging conical lamp by a lattice window,
placed a glass,
half-empty or -full, on ledges and sills.
Reality was disciplined
black outlines. After lunch,
a waiter leaned in them on a half-door
to a kitchen, no less weary
than six chipped oblongs were a ruin.
The chairs in vacant foyers
were as primary as their colors,
yachts on a blue bay
joyous beneath their bunting, which was gray.
I saw a future where the green lane bent.
I thought the rudimentary orange hermit
had everything one needed.
Later came thicker paint, a sculpted
tomb in Highgate playing
with the letters of the word “dead.”
Between lay the ever-rising sun
of Thatcher. What was it she said?
“There are no such things as rooms. There is only rent.”