Their brains get fixed and then they’re sent to me,
whose job is to take down
their newly communicable stories.
Some want to write them themselves;
apologetically I must
insist on the proper form, which makes it
easier for statistics to be milked.
Today a girl, whose look
suggests rebellion but in which I see
a similar desire for order.
“I wanted to go mad, then I’d be free,”
she says. “But I always understood:
my parents had spent all their savings,
and my grandparents’, on tutors.
I struggled with English, never slept, still wouldn’t
be able to study abroad
like children of the Party and the rich.
I thought that if I cut my wrists
I could hold up my limp and bleeding hands
to my teachers and point out
I could no longer program, add, or write.
But the greatest resentment I felt
was of not being the center of the world
(as my parents said), any more than some lazy delinquent
in … Kansas,
or an African slaving for us or the West.”
Papers signed, here here and here;
a few sincere
kind words and off-the-record tips;
from my window I watch her cross the plaza.
Another million await (more since the plague)
but as I and my colleagues like to say,
Who’s counting? Demonstrators block
her way – it’s hard to say how many:
they merge, like the slogans on their banners,
some quite ancient, all unfair
because they’re aimed at us –
because we’re handy, and care.
We tell them more or less what I told her:
a world is yours to make, without parents or Party
or schools like hers … I spot
her, one last time, beyond the crowd.
All they’ve created so far is a parking lot.
Fred 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; and two collections of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, (Prolific Press, 2015) and LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). He has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Rat’s Ass Review, Faircloth Review, and Triggerfish.
Read more of Fred here.