Haunted Passages: Howie Good
(1) Strange how you arrive with no address in mind. Objects begin to misbehave, clocks to bend and stretch. And then a procession of pallbearers carrying empty coffins enters—creased, stained, stoop-shouldered. The century feels a lot longer than a hundred years. (2) Facebook announces a suicide prevention app. If the heart stops beating, it sends a text message that says, “I’m dead at x and y coordinates.” Emptiness is now, suddenly, a monument. And no one is sure why. (3) It’s good the children were asleep. We had a lot of time to be neurotic, my wings flapping, your dress like an ink blot. All the colors were unstable. After I prayed the way you said, I not only got a better car but it was bright red.
Life Without Parole
(1) Women, take note. There will never be silence. Autumn is for bells—and a crow-like bird that carries an ominous egg. (2) To hell with facts. There is no truth. There is only perception. Some see a kind of concentration camp blending into its surroundings. Some—and no one knows who exactly or how many—see the face of Jesus in a slice of toast. (3) The only light streams in from artificial hells. What you see before your eyes today is being repeated across the cosmos. As you walk through room after room, it becomes clear that the worst has happened, that you can live with the worst. There is dance in the roiling turbulence.
Angel of Death
I was in the garage with the door open, sharpening the blade of my long-handled scythe, when a man with a faded denim jacket over his head came halfway up the driveway. He said his face was injured so bad he couldn’t show it. It hurts, it hurts, he moaned. But as soon as I asked his name and what had happened to him, he started to leave. He seemed kind of wobbly. Can you believe this shit? I said to myself. I decided to follow him a little ways. It was time for me to become an apprentice once more.
(1) Headlines crawl across the bottom of the screen: Satanic trial begins . . . Buried newborn survives . . . Swastikas on gift wrap? And the little children cry in the streets. (2) The long road leading away. Dim streetlights at dusk. A woman’s piercing scream. What is the message here, if there is one? (3) I’m awakened by loud banging. Bleary-eyed, I look out the window. Goddamn. The flames already? No one in this town is ever going to sleep again. (4) It isn’t so bad, really. Just a little stab of anxiety, that’s all, like when you can’t immediately remember how many feet in a mile.
(1) Am I dying, or is it my birthday? Nothing soothes pain like human touch. Only those tortured by love can understand what I mean. (2) Codeine . . . bourbon. God will forgive me. It’s his profession. (3) I believe we should adjourn this meeting to another place. The fog is rising. I’ve got to get to the top of the hill. Oh, do not cry. You can keep the things of bronze and stone. (4) I’ve a lot to say, not just something. Write . . . write . . . pencil . . . paper. Now comes the mystery. The paper burns, but the words fly free.
(1) I can’t sleep. Too dark . . . too light. I am seeing things you know nothing of. Southerly gales, squalls, lee rail under water, wet bunks . . . The whirlwind, the world whirlwind, carried me and my work away. (2) I owe much; I have nothing; the rest I leave to the poor. Yeah. Why not? (4) Fetch my fiddle. I’m going away tonight. I’m going over the valley. I’m going in search of a great perhaps. Don’t you dare ask God to help me. (5) The orchestra is still playing bravely. What does it signify? How much longer will it last? Don’t sole the dead man’s shoes yet.
(1) Twenty-seven letters! What is the use? I am not able to explain myself. Only one man understood me. And he didn’t really understand me. (2) Whose house is this? What street is this? Hello. Is there anybody in the room? Where is my clock? (3) Wait a minute. This is no time to make new enemies. It is between light and darkness, and everyone must choose a side. (4) A slight knock at the windowpane and then . . . My prisons disappear, the great of the Earth pass away. Ah, what a moment. Pull back the drapes. It is all light. I love to see the reflection of the sun on the bookcase.
(1) More light. Open the second shutter so that more light may come in. The chariot and the horses! (2) Don’t let the awkward squad fire over me. Don’t let the children forget me. Hold me in your arms. Sing to me, if you have the heart. (3) Useless . . . useless. Do you hear the rain? My fun days are over. (4) You sons of bitches. Go on, get out. The play is finished. Curtain! Fast music! Lights! Nothing matters. The sadness will last forever. Softly, quite softly.
(1) Time is short. Agony grows. Hope lessens. This is where the real fun starts. (2) Everything has gone wrong. The world is a bubble—trouble wherever you go. Please don’t leave me. Are we not children, all of us? (3) I haven’t told half of what I saw. The Earth is suffocating. There, do you hear that bell? Do you hear it ringing? That is my testimony.
NB: “Dying Words” was composed by remixing the last words of various historical and cultural figures, including Leonard Bernstein, Jean Cocteau, Marco Polo, Richard Halliburton, George Engel, Vincent van Gogh, Theodore Roosevelt, Heinrich Heine, Salvador Dali, James Brown, Cosmo Lang, Babe Ruth, Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel, Siddhartha, Frederic Chopin, Bobby Fischer, Tallulah Bankhead, Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, Gertrude Stein, Sam Bass, Lady Nancy Astor, Voltaire, James Dean, Captain Lawrence Oates, Hart Crane, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Lucas, Martha Beck, Joan Crawford, Laurence Olivier, Thomas Edison, Anna Pavlova, Jessica Dubroff, Ethel Barrymore, Timothy Leary, Francois Rabelais, Florenz Ziegfeld, Thomas Hobbes, John Abernethy, Miguel de Cervantes, William Cowper, James M. Barrie, Rupert Brooke, and William Cullen Bryant.
Howie Good’s latest poetry collection is The Horses Were Beautiful (2022), available from Grey Book Press.