Poetry: Selections from Howie Good
War Without Rules
There were days when the explosions didn’t subside. The sirens became more and more frequent, especially at night. We began to sleep badly. Then one morning, while hurrying to the market, I was struck by flying debris. At the hospital the doctor first looked around to make sure no one was listening who shouldn’t be. “I just need to grab a lab coat and one egg and I can fix this,” he said. He cut my feet open and put pennies in the incisions before sewing them back up and wrapping them in bandages. He explained that they were lucky pennies.
Nights back then seemed darker than they do now. I resigned myself to long empty hours of insomnia. Someone said, “Have you been checked out by a psychiatrist recently?” The house across the street from ours was strung with Christmas lights way into spring. Police treated any outdoor gathering of three or more people as a riot. The latest idea in art was that only when a painter destroyed a painting, scratched it out, was it ready to be seen. A life’s work could just about fit inside a shoebox.
What Happens When You Don’t Wear Green
Other people are just shadows. Many haven’t heard about Syria. They say, “Where is Syria?” Some think it’s Siberia. You feel numb. Even when someone is telling you a joke you know is funny, you can’t laugh. Every day there’s a funeral – sometimes several at once. And the dead are all so young. The bodies come to you in bad condition, covered in dirt, blood, open wounds. Shots to the knees tell you the person was tortured. Sometimes it’s really hard to put the parts of the body together. You try, but it’s not something three drunk dudes can do with a hammer.
My mother flushed my goldfish down the toilet while I was at school. I had won the fish at a carnival by tossing a ping-pong ball into the fish’s bowl. Memory needs to tell some kind of story. The story might not be evident, but it has to be there. Buddy Holly at his show in Duluth three days before the plane crash that killed him looked right at my mother when my mother was pregnant with me.
Trick of the Eye
Yesterday, as I was getting into my car, I suddenly saw in the sky the squarish letters of the Hebrew alphabet fringed in fire. Now I sat in the exam chair in a small windowless room filled with the loud hum of medical machines whose purpose would remain a mystery to me. Because of the noise, the eye doctor and his assistant used hand gestures to communicate with each other. They mimed tossing bombs, cutting throats, shoveling in food, counting out money. I knew right then that there was nothing actually wrong with my sight. It was just that I hadn’t ever seen with such bleak clarity before.
Howie Good is a poet and collage artist on Cape Cod. His latest poetry books are Famous Long Ago (Laughing Ronin Press) and The Bad News First (Kung Fu Treachery Press).