Over brandy and espresso we discuss
bad endings: twists, surprises;
careers, lives, manuscripts abandoned.
A Brit in his mild, learned way
suggests that it’s only failed art
that lets the horrid grandeur
of reality show through. (It’s the same paradox
a Frenchman has been elaborating for an hour
without quite stating.) Across the fields
the Quonset huts of our small city
shed, hopefully, the rain. So do the signs
and ineffective weapons of those
beyond the wire, who disapprove of us;
the ones who intend to stay.
We might have been among them.
But when the big groups muscled to the fore,
demanding passage – those unduly
devoted to religion or skin color,
burning girls or beating children, guns,
defeating the evils of vaccines, altruism,
literacy – we thought,
To hell with it. To hell with this fair world.
We too will have our own, and make it good.
There will be kindness on at least one planet.
We shall not wander weeds and ruins
with cowards, aesthetes, sentimentalists,
who again, despite us, will split and split
again and beat each other into mud.
The ships will come for us, we last and least,
next week. No one knows why or whose they are.
At least they look mechanical, not organic.
One has a sense they’ve done all this before.
They never talk. Their broadcasts
show the best of all possible worlds
for us as much as for the fools and bigots –
soil, seas, and solitude. Of course,
we wonder if we’ll end up slaves, cuisine,
or harmless dreaming molecules of amber;
or if, out there, our brave new culture
will rot, remembering we couldn’t help …
To hell with it. We’ll see what can be done
by a million intellectuals with robots.
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.