Avatar Review

Frederick Pollack


I lost again. It was a loss,
not a not-win.
In one of the surviving factories,
a group of proles
won. (It has to be proles,
not people like me,
for the good of the system.) The woman
shows brains -- “diversify,”
“it goes fast.”
The men are beyond that. One
will finally get his parents out
of the trailer. He describes a house
like a big trailer, with hot-tubs every fifty feet.
The rest . . . their humor
shrinks, like mine, as they speak. The spokesman
is visibly thinking
he won’t have to talk to anyone again.

I turn them off and wish them all the best.
With all this defeat
my memory is going. In which Chekhov play --
it would take only a moment
to check, but I’ll let it go --
is the heroine, at the end,
unsure what to cry (and what is the intense
emotion she feels?), and so cries
both “We shall work” and “We shall rest”?

The Good

The vampire entered St. Peter’s Square.
There was only ever one
vampire, who moved around
a lot. Via email,
he had informed Interpol
where the bodies were buried
in a hundred countries. The newer corpses,
white and
drained, skeletons
with bits of anguish
still hanging from their grins, had all
been found; army units,
carabinieri ringed
the plaza. But the vampire
had first contacted
the press, and it was they who
surrounded him, with their sound-booms,
when he appeared. Dark-clothed
in the noon sun, he had
no majesty, only Ray-bans,
the silly-looking fangs,
the sour jowls of one who has spent
years or centuries
inexplicably. Small flames
burst now and then
from his jacket and skin;
he wearily extinguished them,
apparently by force of will,
with a small and ordinary hand. Glancing
up at a window
where the Pope may
or may not have been watching, he
said he would not explain
his crimes. There are needs;
he would speak
from the point of view of history, which has none.
And where motives -- repentance, vengeance,
whim, disgust and exhaustion --
merge. The ultimately benign
Being in whom
"most of you in this crowd
and gawping at your screens believe”
is projection. The true God
has the sensibilities of a crocodile,
floating between mud and dreams --
“Where blood is shed, or drunk, He also drinks”
and would no more hatch
an egg to save someone
than his earthly avatars. “You can make of this
what you will.” The press
pushed forward (“How do you know?”);
the soldiers, annoyed, also
advanced. But the vampire doffed
his sunglasses, turned
his ravaged and amused
gaze on the cross atop the dome, and burned.

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