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.