A Mild Manifesto
My goal is to make
It’s a hobby, to be honest.
I want nouns.
I want the word death.
I want the word God.
I also want peonies
and the color blue.
My eye roams all over.
The words are growing in the field.
They’re like flowers,
and I pick the ones I like.
Source: Mary Ruefle as quoted in “The Lyrical and Funny Art of Erasing Words From Books,” Hyperallergic, 9/6/2021 (https://hyperallergic.com/671328/mary-ruefle-erasures-robert-frost-stone-house-museum).
Work of the Unemployed
I recently lost my job. With nothing much to do, I sneaked the other week into an exhibition at the Galerie der Moderne. The walls were hung with paintings by people who didn’t seem to know how to paint. However, I did enjoy the complimentary wine and the cubes of cheese on frilly toothpicks. I would have stayed longer, only there were these police around. In the old country, my great-grandfather went to fetch a ration of bread, and the loaf was sticking out of his coat when the SS officer who shot him for sport rolled his corpse over.
All About Me
The movie was called To Hell and Back. He played himself, Pvt. Audie Murphy, the most decorated G.I. of World War II. Up on the screen, he single-handedly stormed blockhouses and machine-gun nests while lesser men cringed in foxholes or got hit by shrapnel and crumpled. I was no more than 10 when I saw the movie. Somehow I remember it was in black and white, and that he was the shy, quiet type like me but with a heroic capacity for violence despite his seeming insignificance. For a long time afterwards, when I walked, wherever I walked, my shadow walked ahead of me.
A mumbling wino in a ratty overcoat stops me on the sidewalk outside Kappy’s Liquor. It’s a sunny afternoon, but he brings with him his own weather, a gray, dank atmosphere. I try not to appear annoyed or alarmed by his unwelcome presence. He asks for bus fare, says he’s stranded, his car’s got a flat. This is obviously a lie. On the other hand, we are all on the road, all kicking up the same dust. He looks at me with begging eyes. I don’t need to speak. I just shake my head no.
I was late for a class I taught at the college. When I entered the building where the class was normally held, nothing seemed familiar. I started walking up a very long flight of stairs. The stairs grew steeper the higher I went. By the time I reached the top, I was winded and covered in sweat. Then I saw a swastika painted on the wall. I tilted my head to the right, the left, the right again, trying to see the swastika as something else. There was no place, I slowly realized, that was safe anymore. One day I will squeeze into a crowded elevator that will vanish between floors.
Howie Good is the author of Famous Long Ago, a forthcoming prose poetry collection from Laughing Ronin Press.