Al in Detour or any street
schizo could tell you that Fate or some
mysterious force can put the finger
on you or me for no good
but you wouldn’t believe
or understand his mumbling, which rather confirms
the point. There are rules.
They change. Men may come
for you at any moment, rendition you
to a cell far from lawyers (they are lawyers), but if
you’re reading this you’re probably safe
enough, a lawyer. They decide
that however you try and whatever you do
you’re wrong, an infidel or black or Jew;
but you know this, which is to say
it’s rational and soothing in its way.
Even bigots (perhaps especially they) hear
a deeper voice that says You got off easy
this time
, without making clear how, or
what. Or growls, We’ll have no more of this,
not after the lynching or the abuse
but some neglectful movement toward release.
The tests come back negative, which means
they won’t next time. You close in
(it’s a sting, the cameras are rolling)
and the dude, the pederast or bribed
official, laughs: it turns out
he owns the network, the tape
erases itself, you’re beaten black and blue.
At each step there are mystic checkpoints,
borders. You’d like to think
there is some satellite- or bird’s-eye view
of the maze, but love and art
are tentative and compromised.
I’m sorry to disappoint you. No I’m not.


⊡ ⊡ ⊡

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. A Poverty of Words, a selection of shorter poems, is forthcoming from Prolific Press. Many other poems in print and online journals. He is an adjunct professor of creative writing at George Washington University.