Three poems by Fred Pollack

South Side



East of Midway, 55th

becomes two Garfield Boulevards,

a half-block park between.

In summer, at every intersection,

alone or in groups,

people sell bottled water.

They face the street, the burnt,

boarded and empty,

or barred and crowded apartments.

Wind from the cars lifts plastic bags

and paper from grass and sidewalks.

Kids shuffle towards basketball,

picnics, and dealers

in the park, are yelled back

by stick-limbed or very fat

grandmas in lawn-chairs

in the shade of trees, beside coolers.

The cars seldom stop,

whether all their windows

are down or up. Yet at the corner

of Normal, Ada, Throop, Racine,

Union, LaSalle, an arm waves

a bottle, a sweat-ringed mouth

calls. So that it seems

one person, and as if

repetition attempted

to say I’m fulfilling a role,

am needed, have purpose. No sale.





Senior Moment



Perhaps, opening a cupboard

for a new bottle, I lose

my friends’ and the fire’s

reflections in its beveled glass.

Though I hear, over cork and pouring,

their wild elaborations

of a joke that is also an idea,

and hurry to return to them.

But perhaps there’s some hint

of contretemps, criticism,

or not even that –

the mere fact of turning away.

The bottle is empty,

was.  The apartment, void

of all but the usual flotsam.

Even moths won’t enter,

their eyes an interstellar dark,

saying He who knows

and rightly claims he asks for little

has already asked too much.





Same Difference



I’m delighted, like most people,

to find there’s little

connection between my moderate evil

in life and what happens after.

The worst, which isn’t very bad,

is having to see my combination

parole- and case-officer. He’s

a slob, his desk always full

of wrappers and half-eaten hoagies.

When he’s out, he leaves my check

for the quarter in a corner

of the mess. (I’d prefer cash.) When

he’s there, I have to answer

questions that even to him

appear pointless. Otherwise, I move

among the cities of a polished Rustbelt.

Steaks at Mantini’s, strippers in the Flats.

Or down to Talladega for the races.

At times I recall I had artier tastes,

but the rule here seems to be Gleichschaltung.

And full employment, forever: the factories

pump out cars, the suburbs

expand into other dimensions,

but who can talk to those union types?

I’m always one step ahead

of some husband or debt. If I ever

decide to settle down, I’ll check

the personals and want-ads (there are papers)

and get a job in hell.



Fred Pollack was born and attended high school in Chicago. Author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, etc. Recent Web publications in Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Camel Saloon, Kalkion, Gap Toothed Madness. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University. Poetics: neither navelgazing mainstream nor academic pseudo-avant-garde.