My group reinvented compassion.
We dispense it, with whatever
water, pills, fresh bandages, etc.
we have, on the blanket heaps,
torn tents, and cardboard homes
from the broken cloverleaf to former country.
The vista has a dark sublimity.
If it were part of our culture
we would, while kneeling, ministering,
and seeing – too few – our comrades do the same,
remember saints in paintings,
and reflect: There was a hierarchy
that made propaganda
from a legend or a wish, then hired artists …
As it is, we think mostly about guns –
great survivors, always healthy –
and viruses that paint
the landscape in broad subtle swaths.
Like all of us, I spent my early years
killing. My rationale was broadcast
from the splintered towers on every skyline
to the pasteboard church of my former father.
When, on the shoulder
of the cracked road, I tend
dying youths who only killed for food,
I envy them. One is troubled
by a drone. “It isn’t ours,” I tell him,
“we don’t know whose it is.”
With his last breath he hails the Holy Ghost.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS (Story Line Press; the former to be reissued 2020 by Red Hen 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.