Fred Pollack


Son (if I may call you that—
it guarantees my unimportance),
you shouldn’t assume
that because my generation lived
before electrons, we weren’t linked
to the World-Spirit, or didn’t feel
the essential, defining,
disgust, or lacked friends. My gang,
for instance. Van, the other genius,
whom I could talk to, as hobbled by “acting out”
as I by timidity. Jack,
whose every blurted sentence strove
for enthusiasm; we accepted him out of
what might have been compassion. And Don,
who said I was the leader
because I was the biggest. Happy family—a bourgeois
in waiting, though he neither enthused nor theorized
about it. He had, however, a guitar.
All still virgins. (I’ve read that your cohort
is leery about sex; that’s understandable but
regrettable.) A major thought of mine
that year was that by now I’d given up
on the idea of friends, now I only wanted
to fuck; would life always grant me
the previous, soured wish? And we
were white—so white—(you probably got that,
though you might have found it hard explaining
exactly what was lacking; we were, of course,
all pro-Civil Rights.
I’m sure you have a lot of close Black friends.)
One night, nothing happened. We pissed against
the rear wall of a church, walked back
onto California Avenue. None of us drove.
Surrounding streets had the names
of colleges; we lived there. Jack
raved solo about Tolkien; we never mentioned
his mother’s drinking. Van sought municipal sawhorses
to displace, but the street was in perfect shape;
he then said something disparaging
about Kennedy, which set us off awhile.
I can’t describe the whiteness
and silence of that street at midnight, though
its major colors were beige, and
residual pink and charcoal. My thoughts
—perhaps this will be true of you someday—
communicate across eons:
I think how at the start one feels
unequal to the world and at the end
to the young; it’s the same feeling, as
I might with greater genius have known then.
At any rate, a cop
gauged without tension
our color, sobriety, clothes, and number
(submissiveness a given), reminded us
of curfew, and let us go. Two of us are still going.
But what sticks in my mind
is how Don, seeing the car
approach from the end of the street, strummed and sang,
“Mister policeman, don’t arrest me, ’cause I just wanna wail.”

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986, reissued 2022 by Red Hen Press) 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, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly, 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, and elsewhere.

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