Four Prose Poems

A Toast to the Dark

I search my sock drawer for a clean shirt to wear. On the subway, I pretend my briefcase is full of secret nuclear launch codes. My maternal grandparents arrived in America on a ship that was built in the same shipyard as the Titanic. All these years later, white judges in black robes are still going back and forth about who was responsible. When I emerge from the subway, the sky looks as if it has been digitally altered. A philosopher pondering the transformation bursts now into tears, now into flames. Then, calmly and coldly, the destroying angels clink glasses.

Culture Wars

The landlord was on the phone demanding the rent. There were some crumpled bills and a couple of bucks in change on top of the dresser, enough for cigarettes and scratch-offs, maybe a bottle of Italian Red. I quoted the Psalms to him: “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself. . .” The sunset faded as we argued back and forth. An almost purple black settled over the city. I brought a full container of gasoline with me next time I went out. A passerby who caught a glimpse muttered, “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.” Roots twisted and bulged beneath the asphalt.

‘Alexa,’ I Said, ‘What’s the News?’

Workmen have bricked up the windows and doors of houses belonging to the government’s worst critics. The pilot of the airliner that went down had been slurping Chivas Regal straight from the bottle for hours. There are colors in nature that birds can see and humans can’t. A former prodigy, in commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima, played a burning piano on a beach. And though the smoke choked him, and the scorching heat of the fire melted his eyeballs and peeled the skin off his hands, he just kept playing until the piano stopped being able to produce sounds.

The Titanic Sails at Dawn

Against everyone’s advice, I adopted a retired bomb-sniffing dog. The dog was like something out of an animal fable. He was personable and chatty, but restless, impatient to go on adventures. I called him “Flash” – after the flashing lights of a migraine, I jokingly told anyone who happened to ask. My real mistake, though, was allowing myself to be persuaded by the dog’s entreaties. We’ve been stranded ever since at the land’s edge where the gulls cry, “Go, go.”

Howie Good

What is the significance of this work to you?

I, trying to make something new, to leave a record of my experience, to move the world or consciousness in a more constructive direction. 

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I see my poetry as experimental because it subverts traditional narrative expectations. My poems seem to have scenes, characters, and plot, but the relationship among these traditional components of narrative is frequently frayed and strange. The poems proceed not by linear logic, but the fractured logic of dreams, especially bad dreams. I am less interested in telling what happened than in how what happened felt. It’s for this purpose that I try to craft images that are concrete, elusive, accessible, and mysterious all at once. Images are maps to areas of thought and feeling untraceable by other means...

What was your process for creating these pieces?

Sitting down at the computer and having beads of blood pop out on my forehead.

Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

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