by Frederick Pollack
Salisbury steak with a thick
vinegary gravy, stringbeans with the sodium
of preservatives still on them, jello –
could it be jello? – for dessert,
or apple pie I was supposed to like
but never liked, attempting
to cover every part of it
with ice cream. Meanwhile
talking – I remember talking, not
listening (to anything), or silences
(though they must have existed),
or even how Mother looked.
And one decoration, fading orange-red
on a grey wall, three medieval jongleurs
in motley, one with a lute,
their smiles wrong, their dance improbable.
I still don’t understand
why divorce required
the privacy of a honeymoon, sending me
to the apartment of an aunt
on the South Side or one
on Morse – other places
where the Thirties endured the Fifties.
(I’m sorry if, over time, that’s become
obscure.) Was it to give him
the wherewithal, the “space”
(as people said later) to begin,
as he did once, to choke her?
Other times she accompanied
me overnight to these outposts,
whispering in kitchens
while I watched Victory at Sea.
She wouldn’t have written this
but, could she see it,
she would question the tight-lipped style.
I would explain that it augments, rather than deadens,
the emotion and focuses
the reader. And she would say,
You’re protecting yourself. As on his deathbed, Father –
handing me an envelope
containing, essentially, money – managed
to gasp, You have to be protected ...
(It was dreadful how much I agreed.)
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure andHappiness, both published by Story Line Press. His poems and essays have appeared in Hudson Review, Southern Review, Fulcrum, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), Representations and elsewhere. Poems have most recently appeared in the print journals Magma (UK), The Hat, Bateau, and Chiron Review. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Snorkel, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Denver Syntax, Barnwood, elimae, Wheelhouse, Mudlark, Shadow Train and elsewhere. Pollack is an adjunct professor of creative writing at George Washington University, Washington, DC.
Pranas T. Naujokaitis (pronounced Nigh-O-Kite-Us) has been my friend for something like a decade. We both went to the same high school, are both obsessive comics nerds, I even helped name his cat “Ripley,” after the heroine of “Aliens.” It was apparent to anyone with eyeballs in front of their face that the guy was destined to become a cartoonist of epic proportions, but when Pranas announced that his first major published work was going to be a children’s book titled “The Totally Awesome Epic Quest of the Brave Boy Knight,” it took more than a few people by surprise, myself included.
“Here’s the problem: I have a very kid-friendly style but I don’t do kid-friendly stuff.” he tells me,”In “Inkdick” I draw myself in the shower with my cartoon penis a lot and deal with adult situations. Just don’t tell your kids to go to that site.”
“Anyone who’s seen how you draw noses pretty much knows how you draw a cartoon penis,” I reply.
After a long pause, Pranas sighs, “Yeah.”