Poetry: Selections from Howie Good
Middle of the Night
If you couldn’t lose your pain without losing your talent, would you still opt to lose your pain? Answer as a poet might, in language disproportionate to the task. W.H. Auden, a great poet but also a very great slob, would attend Sunday services at St. Mark’s Church in the East Village in his slippers, a rope holding up his pants. Now, as befits a nightmare, the dead swim beneath the sidewalks with the balletic ease of porpoises in the ocean. The bottoms of the bedroom curtains appear for a moment to be furled in flames when I jolt awake. I hear what sounds like the panting of lovers pushing and grinding against each other. I think maybe I always knew I would.
Regrets, I’ve Had a Few
Almost as soon as one war ended, another began. We offered allies lethal assistance, the names of the poor working women whose throats had been cut and bodies mutilated by Jack the Ripper. The old cretinous myths persisted even so – for example, that four in the morning is the coldest hour of the day or that frequent emoji users wear dark glasses and pass secrets. Sometime later, the mountains wore down to valleys, an 18-month-old slipping under the water when her mother left her unattended in the tub for just a sec.
Families flee across oceans and borders only to find themselves caged up again. Caw-caw, the crows cry, less as a declaration or warning, more as a question. The crossroads are never in the same place from one day to the next. Instead, there is a sickening stench, as when thick, black smoke spreads from a chemical fire. No one will be held responsible for the damage this may cause. But, hey, that’s capitalism, an extremely elderly demon, the same hag who murders babies in the womb and then clings to the souls of mothers and talks through their mouths.
A Fan’s Notes
I’m on the phone long distance with my doctor brother, who is describing the feeble condition of our 96-year-old father. He can barely hear. He can’t walk without assistance. He wears a diaper. Through the glass slider to the patio, I watch the marsh reeds sway from side to side, native dancers in feathered headdresses performing a ritual dance of some solemnity. You don’t want to end up like him, my brother says. Uh-huh, I reply, but I’m thinking it may already be too late. The wind drops; the reeds grow still. Before my brother hangs up, we talk about how well the Mets have been playing.
A premature hint of spring creeps into town overnight. Suddenly I’m aware of the dead birds hanging by their stretched necks like window ornaments. I grow a beard as a diversion but months later wear it as a disguise. Sentences I don’t remember writing keep reappearing on my screen. You blame too much coffee and too little sleep. Kind clings to its kind. My own countrymen prefer simplicity, directness – the sharp bang of a gunshot to the eerie silence that follows.
Howie Good's newest poetry collection is Heart-Shape Hole (Laughing Ronin Press), which also includes examples of his handmade collages.