by Howie Good
The Wretched of the Screen
We’re trying to stay calm. We can’t lose hope. In the past, we had cufflinks and tie clips. Now we have USB sticks. Do we even sleep? Sometimes we power down, but that’s it. And still it comes as a shock when evening red blowtorches the sparrow and countermands the nightingale. Your body begins to tremble. It’s like it’s not yours anymore. You should ask for help. The person you love is somewhere, there, standing last in line. When you extend your hands, everything will be just where it’s supposed to be.
Electro Lux Imbroglio
We sit outside drinking by the fire. My hair smells like the smoke of burning Confederate flags. I have to watch out for rats and raccoons and people. We aren’t using the term “serial killer” yet because we just don’t have enough evidence. The injured scream, “I need some help, I need some help.” They pretty much have bullets in every part of their bodies. But don’t worry, it isn’t a regular occurrence. The children throw stones at them so they very seldom get this close.
The monsters were here before the superheroes. They shaved their beards to look like us. That may sound crazy, but I feel the fire touching me through my window. Nobody I ask can tell me if it’s real. The police yell at me: “You’re just like your mother. You probably have fantasies about China, too.”
I was walking, and I heard a boom. Then it happened again. And again. I remember thinking, “Lord, I hope nobody’s child is dead.” Nowadays, everybody is scared. I’m not exaggerating. We’re all being extra careful. If you don’t operate this way, you have nothing. Hand-to-hand self-defense will only take you so far. Just the other day, some guy driving past shot an older couple, no explanation, while the riot police hid bombs in abandoned vehicles. This is the kind of strange thing we see now, as if the projectionist made a mistake and played reel four before reel two.
Pancho Villa Seen From a Distance
Shadows add nuance to the frank shabbiness of the house, where a man is digging in the garden with a sharp stick instead of a shovel. The laundry hanging on the line turned mostly to rags long ago. A woman appears in the doorway, drying her hands on her apron. She watches foxes and wolves wander into the village to play with the children. The sun spirals down. Pancho Villa has shrunk to just a dot in the distance, as if searching for old and lost rivers, going there to see if something comes next, finding something, how to love the dead.
Everyone says, “Just be yourself.” There is no way to overstate the amount of stress this causes. Eyeglasses go into one pile, gold-filled teeth into another, props to help tell family stories. Sadness is not uncommon. Back at the house, I write down what I can remember from college astronomy about red giants and white dwarfs. The dark of night makes it difficult. Most people have forgotten pretty much everything but the very last thing they heard. Oh that sound. Believe it or not, it’s real, roadblocks and document checks and guards with machine guns strapped across their chests.
The Time Before the Last Time
It was a Sunday, four days before Christmas. Things were falling down. I was like “Oh shit, here we go.” Choppers and drones cluttered the sky. Hoodlum types were observed entering expensive autos. I’m not usually crazed or bomb-throwing. But, of course, what happens? That night I have catastrophic dreams of riots, massacres, plagues. When I wake up, I can’t believe I’m still alive. You need to be careful in interpreting that. At any time, somebody out there can snatch you away from everything for no reason.
Howie Good is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize for Poetry and forthcoming from Thoughtcrime Press.