Howie Good

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A Piece of History

Farmers on tractors were singing to their favorite crops, and the bearded lady was beautiful in her own way. A love suicide stopped drowning for a minute to pose for pictures. Then it was finally my turn to speak. I’d barely begun when the judge interjected, “Spare us your life philosophy.” I remember thinking, “What’s there to say, anyway?” Everything was glowing. People, birds, dragonflies, grass, trees – everything. Although Hitler was presumed dead, the screams from the gas chambers went on. Neighbors, when later questioned, said they thought it was just the collection of Hummel figurines above the fake fireplace.

Only Beauty Survives

The king delighted in varying which crown he wore. One day he’d wear a crown of gold; the next, a crown of silver or of iron, or even a crown eccentrically fashioned from barbed wire. When he wore the latter, he was always surprised when blood ran in rivulets into his eyes. The queen, meanwhile, hated anyone who might be thought more beautiful than she was. She frequently sent assassins throughout the land to eliminate all possible rivals. That sound isn’t thunder, people would say, but an assassin rapping on the door of a cottage until his knuckles are raw.

Life and Nothing But

The police nowadays consider a gathering of three or more people a riot. I try desperately to speak out, shriek like someone warning of an approaching fire, but can’t, because of a sudden terrifying lack of breath. All these events, crises, dramas, convulsions – literature pales by comparison. When I cross any border, there is always an uneasy moment when I feel myself automatically regarded as an enemy. We are surrounded by murderers. Like those jellyfish on the beach. Children stab them with sticks without realizing they are living creatures. Life is nothing but being stabbed, knifed. We are the wound.                     

After the Bomb

A former beauty queen has been found in her bedroom decapitated, limbless, a chainsaw nearby.  The floor is littered with discarded gloves and face masks. On the wall, a decorative wooden sign says, “Breathe deeply and calmly.” How do you do that? This might not be hell, but it definitely isn’t heaven. We need a plan, an intervention, something. In Hiroshima after the bomb, they piled the bodies in the swimming pool at the college and cremated them with scrap wood. The smell of smoke chokes us; the heat scorches our eyeballs. Sirens scream in the distance. Assume the monster is everywhere.

Reason to Believe

By late March, tens of thousands
were about to die from the virus.
I was sad, so sad. Then the sun
would come up and the buds open
a little more each day. You could hear
the music – the Mister Softee truck
was out. You just had to watch for it.

As I go around town,
I see people wearing
face masks all wrong,
under their noses
or even their chins.
I don’t want to get
into it with them.
I just want to get away.
Given a choice,
I’d live somewhere
civilized and safe,
somewhere like Switzerland,
but without all the cows
and glaciers.

It’s important to pay attention to possible omens.
Like the tall weed growing across the street,
whose milky white sap is said to relieve pain.
Do you have 30 seconds? I swear sometimes it glows.


Howie Good is the author of The Death Row Shuffle, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.