Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hi --
please find two multi-part poems for your consideration.
Thanks for taking a look.

Howie Good

Howie Good

(after the writing of Geoff Dyer)

When we see birds
in the evening,

Camus said,
we always think of them

as heading home.
A white truck,

its lights blurring
through the rain,

is coming the other way.

Can you photograph
an orange in black-

The same person

appears in any number
of photographs,

even if it isn’t,
strictly speaking,

the same person.

Something was there
and no longer is.

The elevator door
will open again,

not on another floor,
but in another city.


Up a difficult stairway, it’s the new year, or nearly. I knock on the door of a strange apartment and ask the anxious man who answers if I live there. We’re like Biblical figures meeting by providence at a well. The effort to think clouds his face: the orgasm of a pig lasts 30 minutes; how long does death last? Down in the street, terrible dreams pass each other with a nod. I wouldn’t trust someone like me either.

At the reunion someone said someone was dead. I look in the mirror. A stranger’s face, pale and impassive, looks back. I should turn up the Bach sonata. I should set fire to the prairie. Every night I should lie down and travel out along the black branches of the interstate and return to the same address – a room full of light, bread and knife on the table, and a weepy bride shrouded in the glare of a sunny window.

I woke up speaking another language. At the store I couldn’t make myself understood. The aged stockboy backed away. The girl working the register shrugged. I started home, but cops were beating a man on the corner. It might as well have been the fall of France, or the day Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. The sky was the dismal gray of neglect. A street musician played the same song on his horn over and over. I also kept weeping. The border was near, sometimes in the guise of helpless firemen, sometimes in the guise of helpless fire.

The moon enters in a dark overcoat. What’s going on here? It’s possible to see the suicide in people’s faces, the slope of their shoulders, the way their clothing is worn, their gait. There are days – many, in fact – fingers drum impatiently on the roof. I spoke to the police about it. The stairs that lead up also lead down to an iron bed, rumpled sheets, a photograph of insomnia. Everyone is singing but me. I’m hunched over, tightening a screw with the edge of a dime. It does a bad job.

The tiny bird riding on my shoulder only uses words I haven’t ever looked up. Better to live life, I answer, than to write about it. I walk out of the room followed by the man Chekhov said we should hire to hit us with a hammer when we’re happy – and who has, of course, a face like trampled snow. If I turn this way, the sky appears barely mended. If I turn that way, the last few Jews in Krakow are hanging from lampposts. Everyone should listen to everyone the way a doctor wearing a stethoscope listens to a heart.

Howie Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is the author of 15 poetry chapbooks and the full-length book of poetry, Lovesick (2009). His second full-length collection, Heart With a Dirty Windshield, will be published by BeWrite Books.

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