The Mended Heart

A poem by Fred Pollack

A new technology allows them
by the thousands to go back and try
to warn their younger selves. But younger selves
are older selves, the classics of
one’s canon, their follies its heroic age.
Trust isn’t the problem: the visitors
bring their own Facebook pages,
instas, etc.; their hosts think
it’s cool to see
what happened to people they never
liked anyway. They don’t quite grasp
the horror of living
in familiar basements, never escaping;
they don’t expect to escape.
Meanwhile, confronting insults they
still use, as well as hallowed liquor cabinets
and amazingly cheap pills,
the visitors find themselves …
Gays get in bed with themselves.
Straights drool for, are revolted by,
or both, later versions
of lovers. Nothing works out.
No one returns. History loops
and stops, or perhaps more accurately
begins to correspond
to lack of historical awareness.


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.”