In Case of Fire
The seamstresses bend to the demanding work of sewing mouths shut with curved needles and fire retardant thread. And why shouldn’t they? The only words anyone ever truly needs have all been cannibalized for parts. It’s the reason I carry a lot of photos in my phone. Still, if someone announces, “I think I’m going to kill myself,” you should take it seriously. I’ve been lingering for a while now very close to a volcano with a beautiful name.
Valentine’s Day Elegy
My mother in one of her rages flushed my goldfish down the toilet while I was at school. This was long before computers ever challenged the supremacy of print. I had won the goldfish at a carnival by tossing a ping-pong ball into the fish’s bowl. A hostile public was creeping down a white sand beach the whole time. I have memories of a star-like crack in a windshield, stick figures drawn on toilet paper, floors overflowing with blood. If it wasn’t for these things, I might have grown up to be many people talking all at once about love.
Whiteness of a Different Color
This feels like the worst place I could possibly be. There’s just barely enough room in the outdoor holding pen for everyone to stand. Cameras survey our faces for unconscious signs of hostility. “Government,” a tearful 11-year-old girl pleads, “please show some heart.” It’s been a long day and an even longer night. Time doesn’t pass so much as flop around. A mother with two young children clinging to her skirt crosses her arms in a vain attempt to hide her trembling. We have no real chance of escape. The moon is blowing at full force, a white whale with a grudge.
Without a Map
That country no longer exists. If you ever go searching for it – in books or on old maps – you’ll find only a confusion of names. I think of it as a crime scene, where the sky possesses an ominous greenish tint and crows fly at ground level. Yesterday I was walking and walking and walking and writing poetry in my head, and when I looked up, I realized I had no idea where I was. You don’t believe something like that is ever going to happen to you. And then it does. The world is just so huge. I struggled to keep the screech of panic out of my voice.
Joe Pesci writhes on the ground as goombahs pound him with metal bats. It’s like if dozens of asteroids the size of skyscrapers smashed into the Earth. The loneliness would last you a very long time, no matter what else happened. I sit on the couch and watch Joe Pesci curl up in a ball, trying to protect himself. His head spouts blood. Archeologists speculate that a 2,000 year-old skull found in Rome under layers of ash is the philosopher Pliny the Elder. Personally, I doubt it. It may just be a warning that we’re a danger to self and others.
I get woken up every 10 minutes by the saddest sound in the world, a shovelful of soil thumping the lid of a coffin. So I decide to hide out for the day, not answer the phone, not respond to text messages. Neighbors knock on the window and give me a thumbs up. That’s the problem with people who put Velveeta on enchiladas; they can’t tell anymore what’s appropriate. For now, at least, there’s no great difference between a funeral and a carnival. Each informs the other. By evening, white hairs have sprouted on just one side of my moustache.
Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.