A sleeping woman drowns in bed. The police rush around, looking for someone to whap on the head with their clubs. Ask yourself, “Who is the bad man?” Ask yourself, “What does he look like?” The authors of banned books, unable to speak more than nine words, ordinarily do not volunteer the information that he has gone blind. He further misleads his entourage by behaving and talking as though he were sighted. It sounds horrifying, fuzzy images of old dreams vanishing into a chemical entropy, while the mayor rides on a float with Santa Claus, vulnerable only to the random RPG.
Nine-hundred bullets per minute go roaring off on joyrides, spreading a dead-screen gray, untreatable strangeness. Close the airports and schools! Evacuate the downtown! As daylight turns leaden, the last tiny creature bursts into flame, a strenuous feat of disappearing for out-of-town visitors to record on their camera phones. Some don’t even wait until the ashes cool before beginning a search for souvenirs. Just around then, twelve failed apostles, vaguely human shapes, like the friends of friends on Facebook, stumble up. Despite broken or missing bulbs, the overhead sign still spells out Exotic Dancers. Yeah, every day.
What with the beheading of hostages in the lot, I’m forced to kind of feel my way rather than to follow a straight line. I want to ask their names, ages, and occupations. But I can’t. Like a fur-lined cup, I can’t come out of hibernation. The hardest part is receiving their smiles of encouragement as I struggle to avoid becoming conspicuous. I finally have to look away. A surprisingly elderly stockboy I recognize from previous trips is at the rear of the store, arranging heads in a pyramid, the natural consequence of long habit.
They take my shoelaces and belt away. On the wall is a clock without numbers or hands. The pendulum moves slower and slower. Advice is slippery. Tears are slippery. I want to slip out of this place into another where it never rains. Not just anyone can go. You need a reason – the flat light, the still wind, the white sky like an empty canvas. There is some kind of holiday there, too, that starts with shotguns and databases and ends with a feast of dynamite.
Swallowing a handful of pills solves every problem, although I didn’t necessarily want it that way. Nearby is another me that I can’t see but that sees me. It’s impossible when looking around not to imagine some prior tragedy, all the deserted cities the jungle overgrew. Whatever happened to the right to be lazy? I try to tell myself that if less is more, then nothing must be even more. A woman outside the Stop & Shop is collecting money in a can, her eyes like rusted bullet holes.
You look up from what you’re doing, interrupted by a chain of thunderstorms moving through the region, something that might mean something, broken people and animals, and the way they stand, and the trouble they get in. The wallpaper pattern repeats the image of a body hanging from a lamp post. It sounds horrifying, but that’s the idea. You and everyone else have begun to suffer the effects. Often eyes become red. So I press my eyes shut. This is wrong, I say and keep saying until my voice gives out.
A farmer and his wife, after their horse dies, want to carry machine guns so they can intimidate passing motorists. They go immediately to a lawyer. No skin off my ass. In the United States we have a curious relationship to death – a very crazy old man, unanchored by horizons, riding on a cloud beyond the beyond, where simple words look like galaxies.
Some years are bright and funky – and even reportedly saved a man’s life once. But she had a sad little funeral. It was rainy. It was all wrong. And I was thinking, God, she loved life so much, everything in the world, including the air. Like the Sufis say, “Life is a dream, and death is waking up.” Not that anyone will.
Source for #4: Allison Meier, “The Funeral of Artists” at http://hyperallergic.com/179082/the-funerals-of-artists
Howie Good is the author of several poetry collections, including most recently Beautiful Decay and The Cruel Radiance of What Is from Another New Calligraphy and Fugitive Pieces from Right Hand Pointing Press.