Reading: Versions of the Prodigal

Versions of the Prodigal

Audio, Poetry - July 12

To his corner office with its reniform
glass table, vivid chairs
that promise comfort he alone
grants or withholds, and view of worlds,
intelligence comes: they are in need,
back in the boonies, down in the swamp
of the past. Are hungry,
are dying, at least the important ones.
Have kept his name alive, have even begun
to say it again, though they couldn’t
conceive this office or perceive him now.
They lost everything because he has more;
it’s the sort of law he approves.
He imagines a scene: their mucus
and grubby shaky hands along his suit;
SUVs, seeds, new bakeware,
a freezer, a dialysis machine
droned in, beribboned . . . no.
He thinks how the voyage to the zenith,
whether it leaves wealth or poverty
behind, is poverty
and must remain so, not only for the sake
of staying sharp, staying hungry.
(Perhaps a money order – huge; the donor
insists on remaining nameless.)
He has spent too long on this.
Fate is a steed, the rhythm of
whose gallop is file and forget.

In Beckmann’s treatment, the girls
who cling to him in the farthest
nowhere of his exile are predictable,
blonde low-earning pros,
insensible to the exhaustion and
disgust he holds as he holds his head
and can contain no more. But wait
a moment, watch the painting.
The girls’ eyes moisten, their embrace
is real. He has saved them and others,
often, from bad johns
and pimps; he is the anti-pimp,
and they bear word and hallowed thoughts
of him when they leave town or whoring.
And his fatigue
is that of one who watches out
for others while having always to watch
his back. He lives by scams–
we all do in this fallen,
unpatriarchal urban world
he has come to. His and his friends’
survival is his patrimony, his
pride. He can’t afford
the luxury or distraction of memory.
Hurts no one voluntarily. Is home.

The farm is near the sea.
Had he somehow forgotten that?
But the sea has been reduced
to a blue-green line beneath
the blue-black of the sky,
whose stars and even moon are held
in escrow or offstage somewhere
in a breathless hush.
He clutches and is doubtless glad
of his long, wayfarer’s stick. His rags
have (when he wasn’t looking?) been replaced
by something functional, grey tubes;
felt, probably.
The dog is seven reddish rectangles
housing a bark. The gape of that jaw
echoes that of the door
in the monochrome stone house,
from which a trapezoid of yellow light
flares. The one returning,
viewed from the side, stares into that light.
We don’t know what he sees;
only, from his expression,
that it is very bright.endcap

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS (Story Line Press) and a collection of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS (2015). Another collection, LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT, to be published by Smokestack Books (UK), 2018. Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Main Street Rag, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc. Pollack is an adjunct professor creative of writing at George Washington University.

  1. Kathy Chinoy

    17 July

    Oh, to write, to THINK, like this…..

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