Howie Good brings us again a batch of language that comes straight out of crime and politics news sections, remixed and remastered into a genuine and recognizable literary signature.
Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry.
Read Howie Good's "A Loss of Faith Brings Vertigo", published in ZiN Daily in March 2017.
A Short History of Office Politics
I was inside with seven girls, and we were starving. We didn't know the war had ended. A soldier came in and told us to run. His turban wasn’t on his head. His clothes were torn. I saw shreds of flesh dropping from his back. The whole city was burning. Staff had been evacuated amid rumors that a tiger was on the loose. Every six months or so you'll see something like that, where someone has been shot in the head with an arrow, or falls off a ladder and lands on a piece of rebar. It just adds to the chaos. Frankly, I’ve been trying not to die. When I come to work in the morning, the first thing I do is recite some lines of verse. Then I weep, and then I go to my office.
A Plague of Angels
I heard the cries of “Attack! Attack!” You could feel the ground shake. “Oh shit!” someone said. “This is it.” The whole area was bright. I was feeling that boom till the morning. Now everyone is running after gold. Some blonde is running through the woods naked screaming. She’s the reason this is about to happen to you.
They arrived at night. We said hello and shook hands with them. I wasn’t thinking of anything. I just did it. I didn’t realize until later that many of them were criminally insane. Hence the bad weather, the hunger, the kids dying in the countryside. Every time we thought we had shut the siren off, it sounded again. We were all in shock and those who could lie on the floor did so. The rest sat outside and drank tea by the fire each morning and each evening. I wouldn’t have turned down dragon blood if it were offered. Shadows may suffice for the real thing.
They find mass graves. They witness executions. I mean that's warfare – it's clear and simple, and it's in HDTV. There’s also a darkness. Sometimes it’s accidents, too. It’s just a family of everybody. I have explained this time and time again, but you won’t listen. And now that room is on fire. I don’t feel like I’m leaving the place. I feel the place is leaving me. But it's a world I can’t escape! It’s a little bit like the Americans in Vietnam. If I turn there, it's there – it's everywhere.
Pigeons are making a nest in the sink. There’s flesh and blood everywhere. As you leave the house, you always grab your keys, wallet, and phone. You going to Liberty? I can't keep doing that. The cops are at the door right now. They’re calling on those who can to help. I saw a black mass of smoke. I felt the fire touching me through my window. Either a bomb was planted or someone blew himself up. When I die, I want my clothes to be burned with me, so I can live in them forever.
2 Kill Zone
First they stole everything, then they burned everything. The countryside was boiling. Only the capital of the province was safe. This was the spice market – it’s totally gone. There was a checkpoint here, there were sandbags there. Perhaps we’ll need them again. I’ve got nothing against them. It’s just that I don’t want to be there. We often say, If only this, or if only that. Soon I’ll be dead, and it won’t matter. The gunmen got on the bus, and they shot people point-blank. They appeared really fast. Do you still want to buy a ticket? It’s a long road, and the gods are wringing their great worn hands.
3 Left of Launch
We’re not talking Sherlock Holmes here. We’re not even talking “Murder, She Wrote.” This is history. You don’t want to be caught up in those cross hairs. People get shot in the head every day. We told them to just hide and be silent. We never heard back from them. I don’t think my mother ever got over it. It’s hard to believe it really happened, and everyone is sitting here having a good time and the music is still playing.