The Stylist Has Taken Shelter by Frederick Pollack

(Poem title from Ezra Pound, Mauberley, X)

1

I keep pointing at something
but they keep looking at my finger.
Thus from his notes. At which point,
the universe expanding
more rapidly than predicted
left him a kind of hut
with shadowy supplies
and the shadow of wherewithal or competence
to use them. Alarmed, he had always been
a city person. But the city still existed,
tolerating him
in its adumbral way. These changes,
I’ve decided (read the first
new entry in his notebook), scarcely
alter the rule of death over all,
which all change merely hastens or delays.
Nervously he obtained
sweet and attentive
animals and tried to share,
with something of his old
brio, his new perspective,
but they kept looking at his finger.

2

Inadequate philosophers
came to his door (which trembled
at the least touch) to sell him
God who is Love.
He described his double cauterization,
first of the concept, then the vocabulary,
and relief afterwards.
They said they would hunt him
and rend his flesh across eternity
though they phrased it differently. Alone
again, he communed awhile with his dead,
whose presence was always surprising,
their remarks, if properly interpreted,
pertinent. When that grew boring or
beyond him, he gazed at his sole image
of love, sorting with care
her thoughts and emails, then
cooking (he washed up);
although the thousand pages of his notebook
seldom place her there.

3

The dream had changed. Instead of a squalid,
undersea-lit encampment
that was still a mighty institution, a
voyage. Specific but skewed: “Chicago”
some fifty miles from “San Diego,”
both heaps of gleaming Deco
at the corner of his eye. Himself
as inept, as vermischt, as in
the former hobo jungle: no card
for the bright subway
connecting all points, no pants
of course, wrong numbers when he phoned.
His half-glimpsed goal a tower
like an old steel pen-nib, in colored klieg-lights
at the edge of a lagoon.
(Sort of cheesy … In his notebook, later:
I’m an American,
ersatz is my genuine.) And he seemed to have reached it,
to no specific end, now struggling home.
But even subjectively the dream had changed:
a grey-haired woman who may have been
his mother, and who may have forgiven him,
handed him pants. He sneaked onto the subway
among unpromising people
with whom he had worthwhile, forgotten talks.
And always there was a buzz, patter, canon
of his own remarks,
deriving from whatever sound (a snore?)
from the real world tried to intrude. He woke before
he had to consider what home was, and
which stop. The notebook says, I almost made it that time.

4

From his moribund chair that fantasized being
by Eames, with an adequate drink,
he outlined a real-world trip
to collect new impressions. The city
had replaced the serviceable
new buses serving B- and C-
list neighborhoods like his with old ones,
whose rattles, bangs, and occasional outright
surrender were, in their way,
revelations. On the long irrational route
downtown he encountered
The Individual, a stranger and acquaintance,
and had one of those edifying,
half-audible conversations. The I. suffered
from something like Tourette’s: though his ground
was diffidence, accommodation, a magma
of hate and madness at times broke through,
worlds too intense for proof, which then
returned to their depths while the face
regained its depthless smile,
if indeed it was ever lost. Grateful, the stylist
refilled his glass and got off.
Downtown, possessions reached for him,
someone’s that could be his; the stores proclaimed
their debt in letters of fire; is it our pity
for them that keeps them going
as well as for ourselves? The shows,
almost like art, fed
on former iterations of good cheer. Then a motorcade
with, presumably, an aim blocked
his aimless wandering. For a moment
his eyes and his master’s met. That petulant vanity
too much resembles mine, and it was this
more than “resistance” that made him walk
through the guns and under the wheels.
As he brushed himself off and went on,
he thought: The worst, which she has spared me,
would be to be at home yet want to go home.

 

——

Frederick is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness (Story Line Press), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Many other poems in print and online journals.