Poetry from Howie Good

Welcome to Hard Times

Under the hard stares of armed guards, the work parties dragged corpses to the ovens or simply threw them into the mass burial pit. Passersby couldn’t see over the fence, but they could hear what sounded like the tinny music of kiddie rides. Until you asked why I was smiling, I hadn’t even realized I was. Mysteries always ultimately seep to the surface. I’ve tried to learn to live with this, to not overly analyze or philosophize, and just observe. Out walking before dark, I saw today, amid the lingering grays and browns of winter, dead-looking trees beside the road just beginning to bud, gnarled, knobby fingers of fierce invalids.

A Cautionary Tale

My wife and I were sitting at a wobbly little table in the window of the bakery/café. As we waited for our superhot coffees to cool, the town’s orphans and foster children were paraded past in chains. Some of the people clustered on the sidewalk behind police barriers wore white arm bands or had white ribbons pinned to their coats, but whether a symbol of support or a silent form of protest, I don’t know. We could hear ripples of gunfire coming from the direction of the warehouses, the local militia shooting into alleys and cellars where they suspected fugitives from the dragnet might be hiding. The soul of man prevails, I remember my wife quoting, but only when moral struggle is present. Any wonder I love her? The gunfire sounded more intense now. I lifted the paper coffee cup to my lips and took a careful sip. 

A Whole New Ball Game

A massive glacier heads for home. The catcher tears off his hockey-style face mask and shockingly the top half of his face with it. In the visitors’ dugout, the manager is busy applying Kabbalistic numerology in an attempt to uncover a hidden message in the uniform numbers of the players still on the bench. Slowly a dirigible emblazoned with a death’s skull logo comes floating over the stadium. The first base umpire points up and signals for timeout and then flees the field as fast as his sizable bulk permits, setting off a general rush toward the exits. Women are knocked down and children trampled, but vendors in the stands just go on howling, Beer here! The next day’s sports pages carry no references to Marx or Lenin or the withering away of the state.

The Personal Is Political

My words echo before I can say or even formulate them. It’s been that way since you went in for tests and didn’t come back out. Now the Russians and Ukrainians are centerstage singing a tortured love duet. I’ve taken an oath against modernity, the sheer vacuousness of it, real people who base their identities on fictional characters. Rumor is that the North Koreans have a missile that can hit the West Coast. I’m no ornithologist or any other kind of -ologist, but the gulls flutter in the wind like dirty scraps of paper. 

Before the Fall

I was three years old, maybe four, lying on my stomach on the itchy wool carpet and filling with ecstatic scribbles the blank pages of an old business ledger my father had brought home from work, the future, with its mistakes and setbacks, the hot smell of scorched metal, still unscripted, undefined, formless, and my heart still a soft red peach without a savage bite taken out of it.