From Dust; If You Build It; Prints All Over It; Franchise; Spoor

From Dust

Despite the crowding in the later stages
of the war, that room remained vacant.
Someone petty and grasping owned and wanted
exorbitantly to rent it, but the room
had its own bottom line, which wasn’t his.
The bombs and shells
that destroyed adjoining blocks damaged
lower floors of its building, which then
spent years in scaffolding. Meanwhile,
light from merely cracked
windows crossed the room, not lingering
on a nearly empty dresser, lighter patches
of wall, cigarette-scars, bits
of fabric that may once have been a doll.
Dust settled undisturbed,
but dust, an extraneous voice said, isn’t time.
The war – I’ve no idea which war it was.
It wouldn’t be the last, but some
survivors felt it was severe enough
to be their last, and that whatever followed,
however cramped and dusty, must be peace.
Among them some disturbed minds
that had never seen the room remembered it,
opened and searched
the dresser, traced the outlines
of frames. When they had left that city, when
the city was transformed, they could still climb
the stairs and enter. Nothing spoke
or signaled. The fleeting visitors never met.
Dust and a few scraps
impose no vision. At most
one thinks, I must become a better person.

If You Build It
The important question is the layout
of the palace. I have no training
and go about it all wrong,
façade first. The thousands of curved balconies,
arched windows – how to avoid cyclopean boredom?
Columns? Huge oaks every hundred feet?
Interiors at first seem easy:
those rooms with the Poussins –
identical down to quark level
with the originals, paint still wet
for they were copied in his studio … Big,
solemn furnishings. But the need for light from two sides –
windows, a hall at the back of each suite,
lined with windows, beyond it an atrium,
more trees? Or perhaps an aquarium
the size of a small sea,
fish nosing the glass, a giant
octopus splayed there because he feels safe …
But why must it be one building?
Why not a kind of organized village:
shared walls, some apparently free-standing mansions,
parks parks parks and, coyly concealed among houses,
looming, the domes of the banquet hall
and conference room, the gleaming cube of my Library?
Different shapes of windows, colored walls.
At which point I decide I’m unoriginal,
conservative. Where palace or village lay
are only trees and streams,
and a gazebo for when I (we) descend
from the enormous teardrop,
studded with terraces, that has drifted
in from the islands or desert
to spend the day
touring the coastal range and littoral.

Prints All Over It
My work is often criticized
for lack of sensuality, of the body.
If I ask why arthritis,
diabetes, keratoses, and
terror don’t count, critics say
such deflection is typical of me.
Such evasion is typical of them.
The truth is, my uncles,
knock-kneed and bald early,
weren’t thus from genetics
alone, but from managing
delis in bad neighborhoods.
Though my father’s mass
and posture seduced women,
it didn’t impress clients
above the ceiling he tried
to pierce. Miners paid
(or who came voluntarily)
to harass environmentalists
in Shepherdstown tended
to have mustarded shirts and be blobs
(black-lung specters stayed home). And
consider trump eyes, loves,
and golf. One’s intimate
environment isn’t
tangential to the system, but
the thing itself! Mother’s psoriasis.
The bones of pre-teen Roman
and later slaves thinned
and flattened by strain.
(I put sex in a category
distinct from “the body.”)

I have a tasteful framed photo
of extreme porn on my desk to show
I’m a regular guy and remind me
of my roots. At intervals I roam
the thousands of square feet, winsomely
harassing. But am at my desk,
tie straight, when the Head Office makes
its passive-aggressive calls. My girls
scrape mildew from the walls and package it,
carefully gauge noise to bury
cries from Service and Returns, but it does no good:
some will have to be set free.
So will I if I slacken,
though all I ever wanted
was retail. Lizards high on the displays
escape through vents, where they become
more dangerous, mammalian; they loosen
grates with their little paws, turn into
birds and drop like stones. I’ve left
instructions that the ghost of my mother
on Aisle Three should not be given
extra help, or if she is on staff,
more training. Like her,
I’m in the wrong line of work but there is no other.

I drop my duffel bag
on the brittle grass. Behind me, the neighborhood
stands, in the modern vein,
united in uncaring,
or, in the manner of an older world,
in covert prying and immediate
awareness of a stranger.
If I turned, I’d know. I don’t.
The house, not quite a ruin, needs paint.
Needs more, but can hope somewhat
for paint. And shingles added to the patchwork
of the roof. And one more war
against termites and mold. One light
behind lace (which logically shouldn’t
conceal as much as it does). Ghosts
could hobble weeping down
the steps to embrace me. Ghosts
are vague about time, even times,
and whether they’re of people who existed.
Pervasive damp; no rain.
I come from the sea or from a war;
if I turned, I’d remember.
I think I had fun, adventures.
Upstairs beneath the peak,
where no one could breathe or stand upright,
some boxes may remain, containing
a three-stage plastic rocket
(in pieces), orange and black,
a never-used catcher’s mitt
(brittle now), penciled pages,
and an animal, not a bear, first mate
on that ship, its insides – spilling out –
the primitive synthetics of that era.

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986) and Happiness (Story Line Press, 1998), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, 2018). In print, Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Southern Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Poetry Quarterly Review, Magma (UK), Neon (UK), Orbis (UK), and elsewhere. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Big Pond Rumours (Canada), and elsewhere.