Drink to That
Sunset; a bland, composite skyline
that empties onto prairie, veldt, and steppe.
Pedestrians, once turbulent and violent,
here fearful, hurrying home.
The mirror behind the bar reveals
a mouth pursed by the sharpest sweetness
or memory of pain.
You know this is the wrong eternity;
the knowledge guarantees you will remain.
At least on weekends, time reads me,
culling ads, skimming editorials
But I no longer read the paper.
We are both failed technologies
for transmitting the lies, spin,
and human-interest stories
of time. We both lose money.
Nor have I to do
with other media. The rants
that replaced news issue
predictably from giant forms
in my mind; I’m in touch
with their feelings, the streets of their dreams
filled with the bodies of their enemies.
At parties, people
who will follow papers
to the end find
the abstractions I come out with
sufficiently informed, even
thoughtful. But meanwhile
I’m waiting to slip into
the yard. There, the pines
give way to ferns. Vast ruminants
waddle past, trampling cameras,
summoning predators, that higher niche.
Endless unchronicled battles, migrations,
insects swarming in ground-mist … and
eventually it’s morning. There’s no paper.
Trucks the color of the army
and those, more vivid, of its contractors
merge at the loading dock,
so that each gives, each receives.
From my sublime sergeant
and the lieutenants and captain beyond,
all bosses blossom.
The smell of mice and creosote
fills the tent of self;
the laughter of women
from evanescent shacks on the edge of town
jams other signals.
Bombers and fighters
proceed in endless triumph
at the frontier of the sky,
while somber containers
return parts of questions
answered obliquely but decisively.
I check them off on a list.
My cot in the barracks
is wider than a grave,
or beds in the wards of the future.
When I climb the earthen street
past the parade ground
I pause for my friends the moss,
vine, the foraging sparrows;
and would bless them in my heart,
except they assure me
that they serve nature as I serve the state.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. Other poems online and in print journals. Adjunct professor creative writing, George Washington University.