What remains of him is the intensity
with which, when she returns from work,
she pets the big and soulful dog
he didn’t want, and gazes at familiar
prints, plants, books, pillows, throws,
their order more pertinent than neatness.
He had wanted to sweep them all away,
like the calls she, meanwhile efficiently cooking,
makes and returns. That was his formula,
among the other ultimately simple
formulas men have been.
Some nights he returns, though she,
in ethnic fashions she would never wear,
all braid and bees, is the main attraction.
He’s there, disturbing,
yet as a shadow necessary. Guards,
attendants? in savage finery,
not touching, lead them through a low-res jungle.
Stars hoot, birds sparkle. Troglodytes
along her path (she vaguely
associates them with the Christian Right)
snuffle her hem, get kicked back. She
attempts demureness, sacredness, hauteur,
unsure if they’re successful. By a fire,
the Wise and Old ones, gender unclear,
set her a math problem; she suspects
the x is loneliness. Later
she half-recalls earthshaking things
they got her to say about love, though still
resentful they first tried to ask
him, famously tongue-tied … She remembers
they were crowded, she and he, towards
the fire and were the fire and
the light, in one sense or another.
FREDERICK POLLACK 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. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University, Washington, DC.