Today, saw them mass
yesterday on a sidewalk
and muscularly hurl
garbage from garbage bags
at a vaccination center; their
élan resembled that
of the anti-abortionists
some also are, but less
(was it in the same town?
In a sense) they commanded
their unmasked children into a school,
yelling re the masked
guard, principal, teachers at
the door, “They can’t touch you!”;
the kids, compressed, looked embarrassed,
though some got into
their parents’ spirit: “You can’t touch us!” …
They can’t touch you, no one can touch you,
you are your body and everything it wants;
other people are illusory,
ephemeral bodies, they don’t even breathe
the same air; so say
we all … And, looking at them,
I learn from them. The world becomes
less crowded, simpler, enjoining
towards them no empathy, no bond whatever.
All her life she had been with a couple;
one died, the other six months later.
She passed to unspecified relatives
who abused her, barely fed her,
and “chased her around with sticks.”
She was seventeen, sores on brow and lip,
one side almost bare of fur,
with pancreatic cancer.
Unclear how the narrator,
fortyish, with a Slavic accent,
acquired her. The cat would not approach
anyone, would flee, not eat when observed
or play with the many toys
they left. The narrator
described what one could see:
hate in the golden eyes.
The disease progressed slowly.
the narrator described her fear
that the cat would die sad, confused,
and hating, and an anguished yearning
to touch her. When after a year
she began to meow for food and
not flee, the narrator thought
it meant she was dying, but she didn’t.
Abruptly, all one day and after,
one could pet her, watch her eat, hold her;
she played. An update said she died a year later.
I was glad for that year, but what struck me was
what the woman correctly identified in
those eyes. It has nothing to do
with language or brain size.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both Story Line Press; the former to be reissued by Red Hen Press. Two collections of shorter poems, A Poverty of Words, (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Pollack has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Blaze Vox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Rat’s Ass Review, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Misfit (2014, 2019, 2021), etc.