In PHILADELPHIA POETRY, Leonard Gontarek selects and introduces some of our city’s most praiseworthy poets. For September, Gontarek discusses the work of Iain Haley Pollock.
If a poem really could give voice to our doubts, hopes, anxieties, joy, here in the city, in Philadelphia, what would it look like? A poem that authenticates us, that articulates us. A poem that gives the exact weight to the story of our lives, with the perfect music in the background, at the right volume. I think it would sound like this:
Violets for Your Furs
Garbage men in this city
don’t see fit to put the garbage
in the garbage truck, and in the streets
the dented bottles and cans spin
and roll like the gait of a man
clutching a brown-sacked beer
in his hand. The discount grocer
on Girard sells week-old cuts of pork
and tins of black beans a day
from expiry. And the antique dealer
by the bus stop hawks one-eyed
dolls and green vases. I haven’t once,
in three years, seen the store open
for business. In Dancing Girl with Castanets,
the model for the figure’s head, Gabrielle
Renard, is posed with rouge on her cheeks,
a garland of indulgent red flowers
in her hair. She looks bored.
And I know this boredom
from Rhea Humphries’ eyes in school
when I told her I love you. I can’t figure now
why she never protested in the hall
when I’d stare so brazenly at her tits.
As for the girl’s body, for his gaze
Renoir never paid Georgette Pigeot,
arms bared by a diaphanous traje
de flamenca more Hellenic than Iberian.
Will I always want something
other than what I have? Which is to wonder:
who knows if I ever loved Rhea? Probably not,
as maybe the young can never love,
or not the young as unbroken as I was.
Let’s just agree Gabrielle, let’s just agree
Georgette, I went about it all wrong.
The garbage men are back, darlings:
Bottles and cans cries the heart,
bottles and cans. Bottles and cans
cries the heart, bottles and cans.