Frederick Pollack


Charles Ulthford Farley

Mother let both of us down, but Dad,
actually, was decent. Feeling a
need to look decisive, he would square
his shoulders, and all the Farleys would enter them
and, from invisible conquered seas and prairies,
aim his level stare. My second time
in rehab ( – the less comfortable place), I
mocked him for that … I was talking pretty wildly,
laughing, restrained; but he just said, very mildly:
“As long as you live inside yourself,
Charles, you’ll hurt. I know.” It was my last time there.
I obeyed the program, and after a year
in the Hampton house, returned to school. Acted
as if I’d been ill, a little wiser, somewhat frail.
(He kept himself alive, I think,
cajoling his weak heart, to see me clear.)
Meanwhile the pink apartment buildings rose
in Guangzhou, gated communities near
Mumbai, with our outlays and – beneath
whatever exotic names and colors – us,
everywhere. In my second year at Wharton,
I saw my aptitude. Knew it wasn’t “me” –
any more than prematurely thinning hair
or a tendency to run to fat; but I
became it. Now, when supplicants come
for various harmless worthy causes, I see
more than hear what I say, the studied warmth; and,
off to one side, myself. The boredom is real,
but (as I tell my son) let’s look at that:
it’s real. And that’s refreshing,
like rain or money on the barren earth.
You know this too, whoever you are, even
with .01 percent of my net worth.



Frederick Pollack was born in Chicago. He is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. Other poems and essays have appeared in Fulcrum, Hudson Review, Representations, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), Gladhat, Malleable Jangle, Famous Reporter and elsewhere. He is adjunct professor of creative writing at George Washington University, Washington, DC. Of ‘Charles Ulthford Farley’, Pollack writes: “The imprecation “Chuck you, Farley!” (which could be mild or severe, depending on delivery) seems to have faded, but was current in my youth.”