Oven by Michael Pollick


I see in her mottled skin
such visions
of dishwater pain,
The desperately overturned
second-hand furniture,
stripped bare of our lunch money.

Here in the crispest of mornings
lies purpose- in oatmeal, in Praise the Lord,
in sitting still while the tea boils;

Here in the emptiness of my third grade,
she is free to be trapped in polyester,
free to consider all the worlds
her hands have had to make from scratch.

(He is a forgetful bastard this morning,
all caught up in his steering gears
without a drop of change.)

So this is what warmth can be,
as we huddle by the gas oven for heat,
and stare holes through the blue flames.

She is not my mother this morning-
She is a scalloped-skinned mutt,
carefully trampling down the circles
where she may find tea-stained redemption.

I would tell you more,
but sometimes yellow
trucks stop by,
to rescue small children
from all matters human.

by Michael Pollick

Editor’s Note: This poem’s imagery is fractured, and this emphasizes the disturbing home life of the narrator, a child. Memory, too, is often fractured, but trauma tends to linger.

Snapshot: Kittanning, Pennsylvania, 1963 by Michael Pollick

Snapshot: Kittanning, Pennsylvania, 1963

Looking north up South Water street,
the dying stand solid as
parking meters, finding finer spirits
underground than the ones
they were promised.

The stores here are shadowed in,
windows covered in soap and relocations-
lonely mothers clutch the gloves
of those who will soon be from Kittanning.

A fine layer of dust grows more confident,
as the Allegheny does its best to carve
new scars through the Rust Belt’s open wounds;

The sulfur sun finally glazes over a town
that stays locked away in its own dead storage,
trapped by the ice cold promise of something
darker than coal, stronger than steel.

by Michael Pollick

Editor’s Note: The demise of the steel industry in western Pennsylvania has been extensively documented, but what historical films miss is the personal destruction wrought by the change. This poem brings us closer to what it might have been like.

Makebelieve Ballroom by Michael Pollick

Makebelieve Ballroom

and when all that remains of
our dimestore dances are scuffs
on aching linoleum,
I shall consider you carefully,
and know that we were gods once.

this was how the rockefellers
played it, all hot and close
enough to the bones;
we blew eight to the bar,
eight to the bar,
on blistered rugs and buckling
storeroom floors.

and you were all fierce reds
and polished whites,
clapping and surging with
the pulses of Dorsey,
whirling and crackling with
the promises of Miller,
turning and wailing with
the heat of the vacuums.

Today, I played the Dorsey
once more,
and as the needle danced
back and forth
on only a paper moon
only a paper moon
only a paper moon,
I heard the creaking
of the storeroom
boards, and for one
dying moment
you and I were spooning,
alone and invincible,
in the dust of
our makebelieve ballroom.

by Michael Pollick

Editor’s Note: Repetition is used to suggest the cadence of music in this poem. Nostalgia threads through the strains of old tunes, but the feeling of love remains.