A genius director, menaced

in his neofascist homeland,

accepts an invitation to New York.

His thing is improv. Even the music

(“graffiti on the fourth wall,” he calls it)

is improvised. A loft is made up

as a comfortable apartment – kitchen, shower.

The accomplished advanced student actors

he has chosen are told to regard

the circulating shadowy small audience

at the rear as the unconcerned witnesses

their city is rich in. “You must act,”

he says in his impenetrable accent,

“for a week. You have no roles but aren’t you.

Must decide in the course of things who you want to be

and are.” An Asian girl who heretofore

had shown no sign of gender dystrophy

is a man from the getgo. He holds forth

on the misères of women in a way

that gradually reveals his vanity. A trans youth

interrupts, proclaims male virtues, however

latent and hard to evoke. Unsure

if they’re being ironic, a pair who

offstage are not lovers mount a fierce married quarrel

about chores; then cook, which renews it.

The cast eats in silence. The poet

(who rather awkwardly declares himself)

engages the couple about their jobs,

improbably lucrative, hilariously insecure.

The comic turn works but risks stasis. The trans

inquires mildly of the husband

when he’ll afford a yacht like Bezos’s

with its own service yacht. The Asian girl,

now uneasily female again with a caricatured

accent, refers to “Celestial Ships”

and warns them not to sail the South China Sea.

The poet, worried, soliloquizes

about how, when institutions functioned,

one could valorize the individual, the rebel,

but now, in his own work at least,

he finds himself dreaming of bureaus.

The third day, however, the wife breaks. She had tried

to hold on to the music, which at least came

(when it came) from outside, but it

had failed her. Now she slams

the door of the microwave, curses, and

goes looking for the genius, who is nowhere.

Frederick Pollack

Author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986; reissued April 2022 by Red Hen Press) and Happiness (Story Line Press, 1998), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). In print, Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Poetry Quarterly Review, Magma (UK), Neon (UK), Orbis (UK), Armarolla, December, and elsewhere. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Big Pond Rumours (Canada), Misfit, OffCourse, Ariel Chart (2019, 2021, 2022), and elsewhere.


  1. we live in a time where friendship needs to be tested before taking for granted. the gov and media are instruments of oppression.

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