Two Poems by Fred Pollack

Fifth Wall

Before poetry I failed at novels. Sex scenes

are hard to write, and otherwise characters

only wanted to think; I had to whip

myself and them back to the plot, which

bored me like any duty. Then came a time

when I thought of writing plays. But they bunched,

my characters, stage right or left,

orating. I made sure to mention

the gun early; when it was fired no one cared.

But what if I’d stuck with it? Rain

descends on a city I haven’t seen

since childhood, a neighborhood full

of the bistros, galleries, and guilty joy

of gentrification. If the rain turns to snow, we’ll

lose half of them at intermission. I sit

beyond hope or tension. Someone I

don’t know but have somehow charmed gets up

to introduce my play. Thank you all for coming.


On a whim, knowing I’d appear,

an urbane sidewalk swerved from its grid,

humped itself into fake cobblestones,

and headed elsewhere, followed

by flower-laden bushes. “Country lane”

suggests Brit, and

the cottages behind their hedges

looked it. But despite some expert

formation flying by swallows, I thought

of Brexit, and genteel murders

solved by insufferable spinsters. So

the bungalows and the approaching town

with its pubs and spire subtly began 

to change. “You’re always fussing,” said

a troll, but since I have no sense

of rural Scandinavia, he vanished,

the houses now half-timbered, closely

set, and overbearing. No –

plaster, charmingly ramshackle, waiting

for Vlaminck to change seasons

and a mob of bicycles to pass.

Or silent, whitewashed, treeless …

Implausibly I heard but couldn’t quite

make out the voices: smugly lucid,

adroitly dismissive, categorical and loud?

I recalled (perhaps he was the troll)

de Maistre saying he had met

Italians, Russians, Germans, French

but never “Man,” and had no idea

what he would look like. I in contrast

had always wished to write for him,

to settle (at least when I retired) in

his village … I entered a bar, was met

by the machete gaze that greets a stranger.

Conversation stopped; they wondered

what I would order.

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