[Table of Contents]



Frederick Pollack



Quite often he forgets, and his small fist
smashes and sinks through
the harpsichord, fortepiano,
or Steinway I'm playing. He can't hear them,
of course, just as I can't hear
his cursing, chewing, or incessant "tweeting"
to infinite followers who never respond;
which, with the absence of other "media,"
annoys him more than I. Sometimes
he stands, a beefy smell transposed to sight,
blocking whatever score I'm trying to learn.
(Improvement is hard with no teacher,
only random recordings, and closed eyes.)
I in turn am distressed
by the turds he leaves, however self-defeatingly,
to spite me, and the endless, misspelled,
inscrutable "post-its" that float
around my books and escritoire. Is he, I wonder,

my worst tenant? Others had milder habits;
the horror lay in knowing what they'd done.
Some tortured me more cleverly in dumbshow.
Eventually, inevitably, he'll be
replaced. At least, I try to tell myself,
I've no other distractions; one's in quarantine, here ,
forever. When I can
I work on my theology, which may
(all hope not yet abandoned) someday reach
an interested party. Although, if it's correct,
there is no heaven but the despised, regretted
world; and hell—apologies to Dante—has
one Circle, where we're all strangely billeted.




As always, the perp has demanded
a helicopter, and some absurd figure
in unmarked bills. The SWAT team leader
sighs. To move now, he knows,
would mean casualties. But life itself
means casualties; only some live. Still he waits
as the negotiator asks,
in his gentle way, about the condition
of the hostages. He does this to gauge,
from the quality of the perp's
hysteria, and the rate at which
he threatens to shoot them, how
he feels about mortality. Then: Where will you go
in that helicopter?—You can't ask me that!—
No, I mean where would you like to go?
And gradually, with more and more
particulars, the perp describes
a tropic beach; seems unaware
that such places are gone or cost more than
he asked. The negotiator
elaborates upon while praising
the picture: all they wear there
are bikini bottoms; don't forget
the tiki bars, you can run up a tab
forever. It's just outside,
he adds. Overlooking the beach or somehow
connected to it is a house, surprisingly
detailed and elegant; the girls with their towels and
wet hair could come up
for a drink. Here too the negotiator adds
amenities, repeating It's just outside. Till
the perp walks pensively out, still holding
the gun, which allows them to shoot him.
The hostages, to bullhorned orders, also
exit, hands in the air as is
the custom. Some stare at the body, the blood;
some gaze about as if confused by freedom.





Poetry is about something. The academic-poststructuralist pseudo-avant-garde believe poetry is wordplay for its own sake. Mainstream poets believes it is a narcissistic meditation on childhood or later trauma, or propaganda for whatever group one identifies with. Both modes are decadent. Good poetry requires a broader mental horizon, broader sympathies, and imagination. "The Lodger" imaginatively confronts Trump, who is both my enemy and that of everything good. "The Helicopter" constructs a situation that epitomizes, in extreme form, capitalist social relations.