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4 Poems || Howie Good

The start of every new day was a deserted crossroads, and at every crossroads was a gallows. Lady Justice only appeared after the fingers of ice that grew in her hair as she slept had entirely melted. She would sit naked in front of the fire, hands on knees, leaning forward to follow the leaps of the monsters and demons she saw in the dancing flames. Alcohol intensified the effect. Later, the little daughter of the innkeeper would help fix her blindfold in place. No one else was all that interested.


You never claimed that God commissioned you to paint the screams of the animals being slaughtered. Your many persecutors whispered it in the street and outside your door. They said you saw with the blood red eyes of a murderer – or at least a murderer’s accomplice. At night, to help you fall asleep, you would try to remember the last time you felt a baby hook its arms around your neck.


The train swayed from side to side. A man at the far end of the car was arguing with the conductor about the high cost of a ticket. No one argued about the existence of the soul anymore, whether it’s like a pair of horses, one dark, one light, harnessed to the same heavy wagon, each pulling in its own direction, or like a stripe of moonlight bobbing and rocking on the water. You stared out the window at the empty sky. The man quieted down. You returned to your book. If someone asked you, you would have said the soul is more like a paintbrush charged with the whitest shade of blue.
A voice comes from somewhere behind me, thin and wispy, calling me by the wrong name. When I turn around, the leaves are quivering with conflicting emotions. Anyone I tell says I need to get a better attitude – or go die. But who doesn’t have qualms when they stick a key in the door? The voice knows it’s not true that there’s no penalty for trying. Sometimes I have to be rescued. Other times I remove the rope from around my neck myself.
All systems tend toward collapse – amnesia, anemia, aphasia, and so on. The wind, which in this country is called “the Torment,” often disturbs public order. Lingering twilight gives way to broken sleep, broken sleep to the complete absence of dreams. Quarantined in the attic, the elderly Darwinist is allowed at least to keep a monkey skull for a companion. Who of us wouldn’t prefer to live by the sea, the light like Abraham Lincoln clumping over the waves on silver crutches?
Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the forthcoming chapbooks The Complete Absence of Twilight (Mad Hat Press), Echo’s Bones and Danger Falling Debris (Red Bird Chapbooks), and An Armed Man Lurks in Ambush (unbound CONTENT).