Three Poems by Frederick Pollack

It Is Written

The heat will begin
halfway upstairs, incalculable,
insulting; damp weight
on the back, shirt, hair, belly
and brain. No air
beyond the screen, only insects
and tired, infected birds.
What was the point, really, of opening
the window? A desperate,
inarticulate need to balance inside
and out. Trump weather,
from now till the next glacier.

(Insert parenthetical action here.)

The particles of humidity
are neither alive nor dead, neither fog
nor cloud. Heavy cloud.
Sovereign, yet gerrymandered perfectly
together, hurt and hurting,
they mop their brows and are what they wipe away.


The ruined temple halfway up,
already visible among the trees,
would be, I imagined, everything I imagined,
and more. But the path was steep,
the famous steps moss-slick and often missing.
I urged upon myself the thought of sitting
on a low wall across from the altar
(did they have altars?), gazing
at bats and carvings, then down
at birds. (However awkwardly you climb,
a hill will let you think you’ve conquered it.)
I knew nothing about the religion
except it had refused the term.
Panting, I imagined one,
its mumbled hymns, sardonic priests,
and ever-ramifying Principle.
But a thorny bush swiped
my face; I stumbled twice in twenty feet;
my canteen didn’t help, and I
knew pain. What insights might have come
among the bat-droppings? Tourism
is a false god, gods are false gods.
The temple, in its funny way, agreed.

Your Place or Mine

He left her satisfied, and was pleased
with himself, since he often forgot
to check sufficiently on that.
Now it was morning and she slept,
slight smile; would only need
to decide (he intuited) when she awoke
if there would be another level.
He rose, showered; found
on a chair and hanging from a door
not his clothes, whatever they had been,
but an excellent suit in his size,
suffused with subtle color.
The burnished oxfords and custom shirt
also fit; the tie was a revelation.
The cufflinks both confused and awed;
he searched vague memories of life and film,
but the principle was obvious; dressed,
he felt considerable satisfaction.
Felt also, as he left,
that she and the apartment would vanish
behind him. Well, it was her apartment,
or was it? The question didn’t seem to matter
compared to the crush he joined in the street,
the men all dressed like him, the women better.
All moved sedately (though some,
perhaps he too, seemed tentative,
like lottery-winners) towards a building
that loomed over the block. With an effort
he remembered he wasn’t religious.
Still wasn’t, but he’d go along.
The music and stained glass were impressive.
Scanning the crowded pews
he wondered if she was there. Perhaps in the choir.


Author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS (Story Line Press), and two collections, A POVERTY OF WORDS (Prolific Press, 2015) and LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Many other poems in print and online journals. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University, Washington, DC.

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