Given how much else is going on, there’s barely time left for the spectacular dreams of the dying. This, fortunately, doesn’t count among disasters of the Jewish people. I’m in such a good mood that I wave to the plainclothesmen stationed in the crowd. “If you wish to study the disease,” one of them tells me, “you must live in the swamp.” It’s only then that I notice he’s coated with sand. The bigger question never gets asked: swimsuits that slim? Meanwhile, incensed at your driving, the man in the car behind you is groping under his seat for a five-shot Mexican revolver.
Words sail off the edge of the sky like hijacked flights, but you still get letters, ridiculous letters, from grateful former students. It’s all about yearning, about what happens when the doomsday clock advances to three minutes to midnight. You pull the cushions off the couch, the books off the shelves, try to pull up the floorboards with your bare hands. Sweating or chills aren’t uncommon. A woman with a backside like a pear trembles watching you. And though it’s already old news, you have yet to hear the worst, that America’s greatest chess player killed himself in a tub surrounded by 12 pairs of children’s shoes.
Generalized weeping wheels into position, nothing I haven’t seen before, flames erupting from windows, dead flowers in a vase, flesh and fur being scrapped away with elk-bone scrappers and the hide made pliable with the buffalo’s mashed brains. Subjective reality sucks. “Time to electrocute your thinking,” a frilly little voice says. And, in fact, I carry my relationships on the iPhone in my pocket. It’s a good thing there are no children around, because if there were, a woman with a cruel mouth but a motherly manner would be leading them back into the burning building.
A torn and burnt napkin subs for the head of a small brown dog. “The whole point of flowers,” a woman kneeling in the garden begins shouting, “is that they die.” By the time the police descend on the scene, a series of gaily decorated signs have lost their original meaning. Only an eye and a hand remain and the unpronounceable names of hidden things.
Siri refuses to speak certain words above a whisper (measure, cleave, silver). I’m reminded, oddly, of Dali’s love child teetering on the edge of a precipice. Getting to work has come to seem more and more like work itself. There are no clocks anywhere, though there are carcasses in various stages of decay, and I very well might encounter a man who has worn the black uniform with the skull-and-crossbones insignia. You should be able to guess what happens next – the permanently forgotten people in old photos open their mouths to scream
Howie Good’s latest poetry collections are Bad for the Heart (Prolific Press) and Dark Specks in a Blue Sky (Another New Calligraphy). He is recipient of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry for his forthcoming collection Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements
Illustration by Sebastian Schwamm