The Outbuildings

They seemed to be apologizing
to nature. Shaded by widely-spaced
cottonwoods (once a mystical, healing tree),
emerging almost coyly
from behind low mowed hills. Not “vernacular”
architecture, but made by machines
with taste. Role obscure:
huts? storage? Or
could walls be rolled up, made to disappear,
leaving a sort of stage for contemplation?

Only slightly denser
as I walked. Always trees, tree shadow,
lack of horizon. Leaves on the ground, but never
enough for fire. Animals had left tracks
and scat; no trace of humans, words
or wire, rules for being there, evidence
of ownership in any form.
I won’t try to describe
the weather. Was as happy as one can be
with no idea of context or what one is.


The thoughts of ghosts are circular
and slow and their feelings as volatile
as they were in the later stages
of life. The entire banister
and half its posts are removed;
for a while and for the same reason,
ceilings and walls stand hideously open.
The ghost had been vaguely fond
though contemptuous (fond because contemptuous)
of the termites and the other little,
laboring organisms; their pace
was congenial. At each scrape, crash
or buzz he fled shrieking
like a cat (a comparison he wouldn’t appreciate).
Hated the dark skins
of the workmen, and there was even
a woman among them! As they
planed and polished floors he hovered; couldn’t
bear to observe what they did in the bathroom;
peered grieving through colored panes (to be
retained) at the still
tree-canopied but alien
street. But when they left and before
the new living (whom he ignored) moved in,
he descended to carpet level,
strolled pleased
through the rooms; now he could think of the future.

— Fred Pollack is the 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 and elsewhere.