:: Article

Six Poems

By Howie Good.

Tearing The Wings Off Angels

Don’t, they say, you can’t, you shouldn’t
stare at the deformed, what bullshit,
pull down the beat-up shade
and weep until your eyes swell,
it’s a great mistake not to
build a little shrine to her tits in the yard,
or shout fuck! in a crowded theater,
go ahead, rise to the occasion,
but leave deep tracks in the snow.

Investigations into the Tectonics of the Tibetan Plaeau

The chief inspector leans back in his chair
and picks his teeth with a matchstick.

The dead aren’t missing much, he muses.

My right arm hangs dead at my side.
Perhaps I’m bleeding from somewhere as well.

His men, spread out across the plateau,
rap smartly on the doors of empty apartments.

I only escape because they let me.
But the moon is chipped, and even the star-

strung ladder on which I might
once have climbed wobbly toward it

is gone.

Ghosts of Breath

1
Something terrible must’ve happened. The fire engines are
screaming. We sit up in bed, only to lie back down. It’s
five in the morning. Our faces are next to each other,
close enough for a kiss. We exchange medieval looks of
fear and doubt.

2
Yesterday I was an elderly assistant professor shouting
the homework assignment to hurriedly departing backs.
Today I’m a house painter balancing on an untrustworthy
ladder. Tomorrow ­ who knows? I might be standing over the
bowl, eyes half-closed, taking a long, foamy, post-coital
piss.

3
They follow me with their eyes as if asking, why are you
here? Why is anyone anywhere? It could be because of a
chemical extracted from the urine of pregnant mares. Or it
could be because of the raving mother who noisily refuses
to surrender her baby for burial. It could even be because
of the strange and sudden resurgence of peeling ceilings.
There can be no solution if there¹s no mystery.

4
Come morning, I’ll renew my flight, a hat and scarf to
hide my face and a pill sewn in the lining of my pocket in
case of capture. I’ll pass through small towns God has
abandoned, where the stoplights work, but traffic is
frozen. I’ll hear guerilla fighters scurrying about the
tunnels beneath the soybean fields. I’ll think less and
less about the future perfection of society and more and
more about dying. I’ll be hungry all the time. As in a
legend, the ravens will feed me.

The Pedagogy of the Possessed

The teacher stands swaying at the front of the classroom.
Many of the students think he must be drunk. His face is
flushed, and his hands flutter like disoriented birds as
he speaks in desperate tones about black holes,
carnivores, ancient Babylon. But he isn’t drunk; he’s
merely over-prepared. In the faculty lounge the older
teachers laugh at his earnestness. They feel superior
because he hasn’t realized yet that when he turns to write
something on the board, the students vanish ­ true, some
only momentarily, but others forever.

At the Sign of the Mortar & Pestle

Who’ll turn the witch’s broom back into a tree? Who’ll
make the dead baby to crawl again? You? Ha! Somehow I
don’t think so. But step inside the shop. An odd but not
unpleasant odor. Cellophane packets of ground bone arrayed
on the counter. Shelves lined with well-stoppered bottles.
A Mason jar in which an unidentifiable pink organ floats.
Necklaces of wildflowers hanging from hooks. And over
there in the far corner, his pale eyes narrowed in
concentration, the apothecary’s assistant breaking long,
straight strands of hair, rather like your own, into a
furiously boiling pot.

Dog Years

The war has entered its second decade. Maddened by the
futility, the dogs run away. Few people seem to notice
that they’re gone. Three times a day, if not more, their
former owners take empty leashes out for a walk. Just this
morning the old widow stopped to let a polite little boy
on his way to school bend down and scratch behind the ears
of what wasn’t there.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Howie Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is the author of six poetry chapbooks, most recently Tomorrowland (2008) from Achilles Chapbooks. He has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for the Best of the Net anthology.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, January 5th, 2009.