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Novelist Eileen Pollack Writes us a Poem

Eileen Pollack



Four days before July, Eileen Pollack  took the plunge—she wrote us an original poem to support our “Take a Chance: Subscribe”campaign. Subscribe here! Then read—and hear—Eileen’s poem below. 


Apple. Air.


By Eileen Pollack


There it sits,

its wide, blank face

lifted to its own destruction.


Rain taps its flat black keys,

like my mother,

teaching me to type.


Her fingers.

Their chilly indifference.

She didn't even glance at her hands.


Really? They're smarter than we are?

Even the stupidest clam

snaps shut its shell.


Sixteen months, my son lifted his arms to beg.

"Carry you!" he said, unable to keep his pronouns straight.

Unless he was offering me a deal:


Lug my helpless body now,

I'll carry you when you're old and tired.

He could multiply, subtract, divide.


And yet, he might have vanished of thirst,

not knowing all he needed to do

was lift his mouth to the clouds and beg.



All those digital 1's.

Like quills. Like folded umbrellas.


But oh, those poor 0's.

Each microscopic mouth

choking on its molten drop of H2O.


Like my mother,

choking on her own saliva,

as I play yet another round of solitaire.


The nurse puts down the tray,

lifts the plastic clam from the dish.

That's all she gets paid for.


The cake, cocooned in so much plastic

it would take an advanced degree

to unwrap the wrapping.


I never much liked my mother.

I am here to remind my son

of that promise. That deal.


Apple. Air.

What is it that doesn't fall far from the tree?

"This is the worst fish I have ever eaten. Ever. In my life."


Still, I unveil the cake.

Lift the glass.

Tilt the straw.


Then watch those rictus lips

close on the tiny o.

Sucking, sucking.


The golden sweet juice.

Squeezed from the Tree of Knowledge.

Of Evil. Wisdom.




Eileen Pollack is the author of a collection of short fiction, The Rabbi in the Attic And Other Stories, a novel, Paradise, New York, and a work of creative nonfiction called Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull, which won a 2003 WILLA finalist award. Eileen's second novel, Breaking and Entering (Four Way Books), was awarded the 2012 Grub Street National Book Prize and named a New York Times Editor's Choice selection. Her essay "Pigeons," which first appeared in Prairie Schooner, was selected by Cheryl Strayed for the 2013 edition of the Best American Essays.