The Subtle Ages
A sufficiently prolonged mood
(months, decades, millennia?)
of this type can make
extraordinary things possible
and ordinary. Like visions of the future.
You need only
correct for projection
of hope, and desire
for some sort of redemption, while not
pretending you won’t be
surprised. I’m surprised
at the general peacefulness.
Settlements by the shore,
oases; one expected
the depopulation. Towns,
homemade schnapps; medium-serious
brawls at the annual fair, swiftly
and science enough to stop plagues.
Prolonged and obsessively equitable
trade. In one place
a plaza, with an undersized
stone I can’t quite read but feel
somehow is there for my benefit.
But what’s startling
is the quiet. Norwegian farmers
would be less laconic.
Nor is it some hierarchic
traditionalistic punctilio; only,
it seems they’d rather do anything
than talk. Or,
except for sowing and harvest,
act. “Speaking” glances
from those stolid faces
with the uniformly brown
and weathered complexion
say little, though they’re looking right
at me whoever they’re talking to
or grimly joking with. What aren’t
they saying? What happened?
What are they ashamed of?
Frederick Pollack: Author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. Other poems in print and online journals. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.