If the sea returns, the monument
will have to sit on an island,
but in this era commands
a meadow. Neither stone nor inscription
decay; are tangential to time;
what surrounds them is in but not of it.
Things like megatheria
groom their silken coats and stretch
to graze treetops, seemingly enjoying
the play of their enormous limbs
the more, the more slowly they move.
A creature combining
leopard and greyhound (it deserves
another name for greyhound, Windspiel,
something vague to sight but not to smell
or taste. Which runs without thought,
hence without fear, or pain when caught;
all its species are meat here.
For birds too, both of whose sexes
are loud and ostentatious,
all wingspreads soaring for play and a view.
The young of every kind appear
seldom, conserving numbers, and none are lost,
and each absorbs one waning consciousness,
which lends a cumulative depth.
Beside streams, cats fight lazily,
the males without barbs, the females
enjoying more than pregnancy.
While in the woods, large and small
burrowers dig for no reason
but an intense inherent satisfaction.
Towards nightfall, one
approaches, flees, approaches, sniffs
the monument, investigating
the clawmarks incised there:
Never forgive. Never forget. Die hating.
He’s a composite figure,
but wouldn’t mind that. Expats,
poets, wanderers tend
to be or become compounds,
and he is all three. Likes ports,
whether cities or villages. Likes
to look at the sea from hills
and then from higher hills.
Stays, sometimes for years.
Finds someone unlike the last one,
and writes about her when he leaves,
and shows that to the next one,
who, whatever her language,
understands well enough. Their contempt
for him only slightly exceeds
his own, which pervades
his work like a mistral. When there’s war,
he arrives just after or leaves just before,
replacing “I” with bulletholes
in walls, stains on stones, and
the glimpsed emotional life
of some martyr. In poems, that is.
Two lines: Since every bed, now, is rented,
no one can sleep soundly.
Otherwise: his nostalgia for God
is less than for home or Communism.
Far from the critics he observes
the scene with undemonstrative disdain.
If we met he’d be charming, perversely
denying received wisdom, that only the poem
speaks. Of course I speak, he’d say.
Of course you want to hear me.
And would in turn be charmed to learn
where I discovered him –
the unlikeliest shelf on earth,
between depressed antiques and spineless thrillers,
the discrepancy a measure of our worth.
[Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. He is an adjunct professor of creative writing at George Washington university, Washington, DC.]
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