Howie Good

Panic City

The first time I saw her, I had to laugh. Her huge feet, the baggy skin on her legs, the floppy skin over her eyes. This time could be different. Here, everybody is special. So nobody is special.

*

It shouldn’t have happened like this. It shouldn’t have happened at all. We have this giant at our doorstep, and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to question whatever the giant does. People were screaming; people were throwing up because the smoke was so thick. I was standing behind that tree over there. It’s all pretty bright for me now. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. Panic killed those people. They didn’t know what to do. They were alone and they didn’t know what to do.

*

The wind was dangerous. We knew it was dangerous, but people wouldn’t listen and more kept coming. They had a vacant stare. They had a stumbling gait. Their heads were drooping. You could see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. I thought, “Why are you doing this to me? This isn’t the world I signed up for.” Soon they were screaming for help, victims trapped in the fireball. We saw bodies everywhere. So many were just skeletons. I made eye contact with a couple of people, and they made a sad face. I guess it was a nice human moment, something as precarious as jumping into the void from an elevated point.

In the Dust of This Planet

 The bandleader has found his glasses! I can see everything — Central Park all the way down to the World Trade Center. I prefer to look at people working in the office than me working in the office. My face shows nothing of what I’m feeling. I have never had a day when someone doesn’t look at me with an openly questioning gaze. I call it a cross between archaeology and surgery. Draw as many different lines as you can. This will be a terrifying time for the 100,000 people still trapped.

*

So much is coming at us that we jump, turn clockwise, and cut with the kitchen knife through the beer belly of the Republic. My daughter could be in there bleeding. This place is very dangerous. There are countless dead rabbits. There might be someone with a gun. People send us their children to get healthy but they leave in ambulances and body bags. One accidental martyr screams, “Open that door and let me out! Right now! It’s a travesty! Open that door!” You suddenly become the protagonist of crime scene photos. Why cry about it? We have always lived with fire.

*

Are you fucking kidding me? A fly can’t land on a fruit tree without permission first from the Mafia. Time is burning. It isn’t really me doing it. That’s the new thing. Don’t you think NASA should hide this? Behind the bookcase there’s a wall, and after that a door. A woman shouts, and dozens of us hear her and ask her questions, but she can only use a stone to tap in response. I just keep thinking that it’s just so easy to run in a dream without getting out of breath.

The Border That Changes Everything

 A man’s dead. The gunmen got on the bus and shot people point-blank. What else could you have expected? They autopsied him as you would an ordinary body, took out his intestines, said, “Yup, it’s all there,” and put it back. We were standing outside, staring, just trying to see. I prayed so hard my knuckles were white. Today we go about things entirely differently. But the process, we can’t control it. There’s a silver Audi in the parking lot with the lights left on, and the tracks of gulls on beaches, and somebody who’s going to jump out of the ambulance, and we feel like it’s all in our heads.

BIO

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.

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