There was nothing I could do. I was under a car, sheltering from the debris raining down, bricks and glass and chunks of concrete. Until that moment, the state ideological apparatus had obscured the real conditions of our existence. I resolved to henceforth be like the unruly drunks you read about who are unaffected when tasered by a cop – even when tasered again and again. In the meantime, the boat in the nearby slip was on fire. Smoke engulfed my head. I swear I could hear the phone bot saying, “All our representatives are resisting other customers at this time.”
The Little Voice in My Head
People with a history of using LSD are more likely to see faces where there are none. The EMT in the ambulance with me had mint green hair. She was trying frantically to undo some knots in the IV tubing. A little voice in my head said, “What have you learned, and whom have you helped?” The acid I’d taken earlier had lasted longer than expected. It was as if I’d stepped through my eyelids. But the potato chip really did look like Elvis.
A skateboarder in a black T-shirt and holey jeans and backwards baseball cap rolls down the sidewalk under tall leafy trees, and with his arms extended like wings, clutches the top of a brown lunch bag in one hand and, for a kind of counterbalance, a cup of pink strawberry ice cream in the other, and on his face as he passes through splashes of sunshine and shadow not a smug smile precisely or a frown of intense concentration, but a little of both, like something seen in the only ever photograph of a dream.
Death by Emoji
I receive a postcard in the mail guaranteeing me a chance to win one of 1,000 prizes. Me! A man who thinks clouds look like things! Meanwhile, a new study has found frequent emoji users “Wear civilian clothes, pass messages, kill.” It’s not unlike what happened at the world premiere of the Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven played the piano with such violence that the strings snapped and became entangled in the hammers. There have been nights I’ve been woken up by sirens and screams and thought, “You’re in the middle of history now.” Even the worst weather cannot stop it or prevent a personal Jesus from selling counterfeit tickets to heaven behind the KFC.
Me Being Me
There’s bad shit going on. An unexploded rocket sticking out of a field. Wildfires capable of creating their own weather. Supply chain problems. Often one has to make things oneself in order to have or see them. Just ask meth cooks what that means. Meanwhile, the ground is wet with rain, and yet a book is lying there dry. I pick it up. It’s called Closer to the Light, about the near-death experiences of children. The universe instantly seems smaller, almost claustrophobic. I would construct a bigger universe if I could and insist that there be an “e” in lightning.
A van drove up with 20 of them, all armed. The police couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do anything. Somehow you slept right through it, the end of the American Century, dead bodies strewn in the road, a few already bloated.
The air is colorless but charged with virus. “Imagine you’re lying in the shade of beautiful trees,” the meditation instructor on Zoom encourages. The coffins keep arriving.
Now I understand what Jeremiah, aka the “Weeping Prophet,” father of orphans and the inventor of mental funk, was saying. He was saying, foreswear this world, if only to not disturb the birds nesting in its empty eye sockets.
A man in Warrenton, Missouri, posted a video of himself licking deodorant sticks at the Walmart and asking, “Who’s a coward now?” I was like yes, yes, yes, I want to do that. In those days I would frequently experience such sudden enthusiasms. It was a furious time, with popular pundits preaching that you must kill what is in order to bring about what is not. I didn’t stop to consider that others might be as important to themselves as we are to ourselves. And so the wind rushed in, and the forest swayed, and an army dump truck packed with corpses backed up to the burial trench.
The Infernal Machine
People would just repeat the same phrases – “Thank you,” “I love you,” “Awesome!” – over and over in the mindless manner of talking dolls. Then the war started there. They took your passport, phone, and money, and locked you up in a room. Now it’s also started here. “Name,” the stern older woman behind the glass commands, hands poised over the keyboard. She doesn’t look at me but focuses her severe gaze on the computer screen. Most of what she says I can’t or don’t want to understand, and they beat me for that. Everything goes dark. The infernal machine has its own internal illumination.
Howie Good's latest poetry book is The Horse Were Beautiful (2022), available from Grey Book Press. Redhawk Publications is publishing his collection, Swimming in Oblivion: New and Selected Poems, later this year.