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  • Fred Pollack

Arcades project

By Fred Pollock

The arcades around the central square

are very clean, but in such a way

as not to make one think

disorder would be more vivid.

The weather, too: perennial sunny fall;

food various, all satisfying, none wasted.

At a modest kiosk, I inspect

a micro-sculpture, a fingering-piece;

there are five or six on display.

Too handsome to be bored by a keychain,

it could accompany any life

in purse or pocket, often retrieved,

reassuring. I reach for my wallet;

but the shopkeeper-sculptor,

with a gesture I later can’t recall,

reminds me ... I make the same mistake

at other stores, leaving one with a cape,

another with a cane

whose knob, a fierce gold wolf, seems

to be considering the advantages

of dogdom. One is only required

to love the thing, to hear and appreciate

the process by which it was made, talk a bit,

leave one’s name and email, become

to some extent a friend. Beneath an archway,

a woman, middle-aged and lovely,

says, almost in passing, that she senses

a lack of confidence or hope.

I sit across from her at her small table,

crowds passing behind me and on the curb behind her,

and am changed. “For free,” I marvel,

but she demurs: “What helps one bear

one’s burdens is itself, though easier,

a burden.” Then an acupuncturist,

along a quiet corridor

in one of the buildings, makes me handsomer

and holds me while I weep. As I return

to the square, low clouds dull

the chiaroscuro of the archways,

the colors of wares and crowd. I search

my pockets; perhaps I’ll buy some tchotchke,

or a bag of socks.


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