Stairway to Nowhere
I was late for a class I taught at the college. When I dashed into the building where the class was held, the lobby was empty. I started up the main stairway. The stairs grew noticeably steeper the higher I climbed. By the time I reached the top, I was drenched in sweat and convinced that something was wrong with my breathing. I had arrived on the outskirts of a country one only hears about when there is a coup or an earthquake or when a virus crosses the species barrier from animals to humans. Toothless old women in babushkas crowded around me. If you must scream, one said, scream quietly.
Pertaining to Darkness
A phone ringing in my dream wakes me. I feel like a body that has been pulled from a canal after three days in the water. Gerhard Richter says that only when he destroys a painting, scratches it out, is it fit to be seen. If I look back, I see snakes and coffins, and if I look ahead, I’m walking on corpses instead of the ground.
Used paper face masks litter the sidewalk. How’s that allowed? Even the crows on the wire must be wondering what the fuck. A series of incidents doesn’t necessarily add up to a plot. I want to shake this person and that person and tell them, “You can’t be lost in your own world all the time.”
I was sitting up in bed reading a book called People Love Dead Jews when I came across a quote from a Jewish sonderkommando. His responsibilities at Auschwitz included disentangling the naked corpses lying in heaps in the gas chambers and carting them to the ovens for cremation. Although hair caught fire first, he noted with scientific dispassion, it was the head that took the longest to burn.
Reign of Terror
It was the year of shadows and mists. If I had had a suicide pill, I would have taken it. The voice in my head that used to confidentially offer suggestions had turned implacable, menacing. Unlike the pharmacuetically blessed characters in TV ads for antidepressants, no medication empowered me to go skydiving or whitewater rafting or on an African photo safari. Some days I couldn’t even make it out the front door. I lived with the kind of panic that I imagine many must have felt when the Committee for Public Safety arrived in a town with a traveling guillotine.
Howie Good, Ph.D., a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the winner of the 2019 Grey Book Press Chapbook Competition for What It Is and How to Use It, the 2017 Lorien Poetry Prize from Thoughtcrime Press for The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, and the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry for Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements. His other books include The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press), The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro Press), both 2020, and Gunmetal Sky from Thirty West Publishing in 2021. His prose poetry collection Famous Long Ago is forthcoming from Laughing Ronin Press.