Adam Pollak

Adam Pollak earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from American University, where he served as poetry editor for Folio Volume 32 and taught in the College Writing Program. His poems have most recently appeared in Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Ekphrastic Review and Little Patuxent Review. He lives—quite happily—outside of Washington, D.C. with his wife and dog.


Photographs of water



Men and women wear flip flops and nón lá,

load baskets of fruit and rice

onto barrel-stave freighters

and smaller boats with long-tail outboards.


Growing season lasts all year.

The fruit must be picked.



Narrow houses tiptoe the river’s edge.

Mint, cyan, robin egg and French blue,

pppppthey rise out of the water;

concrete slabs on wood beams

metal poles holding rusted tin roofs.


Each house

drops a ladder into the river.



Hairy red chôm chôm. Little bananas

like bunches of fat thumbs.

We eat till we’re sick.



Twelve or thirteen year old boy

straddles the prow of his canoe,

ppppone leg in the water

up to his knee,

pulling a submerged line. More

ppppppppppppppppand more appears

ppppppppppas he pulls.



Clumps of leafy green plants

bob on the surface.

Eventually—earthy roots

pppppppppppppppppppppunmoored for all time—


they pass into the South Sea.





When you are on the other side

you will not be like what you were

before you get through the Mekong.


The Hmong fleeing Laos were forced across

the river. Often during the night. Often

on floats made from bamboo shoots, lashed together.


As they clambered

into the mile-wide river,

soldiers on boats opened fire.


Each person on the river

fought for himself and no one else.

After the ambush,


you cannot say to your wife

I love you more than

my life.       She saw!

You cannot say that anymore!



ppItalicized sections spoken by Blia Yao Moua,

ppppp(quoted in Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down)

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