The major building on that block
shows what concrete can do:
occlude the reflectiveness
of glass, two hundred panes of which
it houses like a skull with many sockets;
say nothing for three hundred feet
and fourteen floors but “I am here
and grey.” The sidewalk, unrelieved
and wide, restates the same idea.
Sometimes you know the central
purpose of such places,
but as you pass you’re probably
no one, so we can say no one knows.
You might think as you pass that time
is a lens, that a certain
quantum of energy will bear you
to the corner with minor but
determinate wear and tear
on heart, joints, nerves,
and shoes, that Hindus believe a man has
a finite irreplaceable amount of sperm,
that history likes to hide
in the normal, the unexceptionable,
the cheap, and if one decodes it
one may become invulnerable
and callous; but why should you think this?
The lobby has thank God no art;
only, in a stone planter,
a dark green plant one could look at
and cheer on, hour by hour, cell by cell.
There are also two black men
in a company’s uniform, one seated;
the other pacing here and there,
always facing the door. Once he would have
had to serve time as well as the building
with all his soul. Now a wire
from his phone to the ear
unoccupied by his boss’s wire
keeps him in touch with the world or something.
The Young Master
I’m said to favor my mother,
but in her day there were no photographs
and her portrait was done without genius.
Papa is a set of conditions,
like Homer, games, cold baths,
cold porridge, horsemanship, and buggery
at school. God is a hypothesis
I have no need of; He is also love.
On the day of my majority I stand,
booted and spurred, by Father’s desk, refusing
the tea his loyal Sepoy brings,
and tell him I will shortly be resigning
my commission: I have no taste
for the dusty East, for things insufferable.
Red-faced, he starts to ask how I intend
to live, but dies instead. Exchanging
a look with the servant (he too
subtle, untraceable), I raise,
distraught, the alarm. Weeks later
I walk the grounds, which, over years and wars,
I improve. I try, successfully,
my hand at novels: last stands,
veiled maidens, bugles, likely lads,
death abundant but tasteful.
With the homely psychology of that era,
people say I regret
the tragedy that kept me from the colors.
They’re wrong, but it’s their duty to be wrong.
Julie Gautier-Downes was born in San Diego and relocated to New York City in 2001, prompting her bi-coastal identity and interest in perceptions of home. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2011 and her Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2014.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press; a collection of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, 2015 from Prolific Press; and another collection, LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT, to be published by Smokestack Books (UK), 2018. His work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology(Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Main Street Rag, Fulcrum, and others.