Frederick Pollack, Defensive Wounds

Defensive Wounds

I’d like to think that with an instinctive
grasp of principles I had never
consciously studied, I broke
the kneecap of one, the wrist of another
(with bullies it’s never one on one;
they work in groups), escaped
the hold of the leader, tossed him over
my head and dragged him,
bleeding, concussed, from the playground
to the principal’s office. There
I smashed him (not the principal) into
a wall, demanding he tell
the truth of what he and his henchmen
had done. Why this insistence on veracity?
I had to represent some virtue, and figured it
would do. Throughout the rest
of my childhood, they left me alone. My
fame spread. Even the staff were afraid.
No one could understand how I got
such good grades, not associating that
with physicality, invincibility…
I may even have defended
the weak.

Of course it didn’t go that way.
I came home weeping with a tooth dislodged.
Mother shrieked. The orthodontist
replaced it, as I grew, with a series
of crowns… My father the commissar
descended with a heavily armed squad
on the school and the homes of my tormentors, marched
them, their siblings, parents, the principal
somewhere from which, never mentioned, they never
returned. I’d like to say I disapproved
but I didn’t, really, and don’t. Though when I look
indifferently at a fiery sunset
or the massed contrails of our heroic air force,
I think they are stigmata of the sky.

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, ‘The Adventure’ and ‘Happiness’ (Story Line Press; the former to be reissued by Red Hen Press), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, 2018). Many of his poems have appeared in print and online journals.

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