Bone on Bone
I had stopped changing my clothes and bathing and just slept most of the day when Yahweh beckoned me with a finger. Don’t make eye contact, I reminded myself. Seconds later, I felt the blast wave on my cheek. Dachshunds yelped as they fell from the sky. Robots with only one goal in sight pursued women through the streets. Orphans banged on strangers’ doors, demanding to be let in. No one was safe. So-called friends deserted me while at my most vulnerable. Fast as I could, I read up on the healing power of positive thinking and found to my wonderment the mind specifically compared to a circus strongwoman lifting an elephant for charity.
“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” – Theodor Adorno
I share the cold, windy beach with exactly one gull, and it displays zero interest in me, preferring to investigate the tidal pools for scallops and clams. As per doctor’s orders, I am walking pain away – or, rather, trying to. Up on the dunes, the dead beach grass rustles, a stiff old voice telling stories from the Bible, a surprising number of which concern shitty fathers, estranged brothers, barren wives. I turn back toward home when I reach the lifeguard station, shuttered until summer. A gust of wind rattles the metal sign that says Swim in Designated Areas Only. Alarmed, the gray gull rises into the sky with a series of heartrending shrieks, a language very few can understand. Such a waste of wisdom.
Please keep right, the chatbot instructs, its soothing female voice so supernaturally calm I follow the directive without hesitating. Under its confident guidance, I’m able to pass around rather than through a dying city or thread a maze of dark backroads. You sit beside me in comfortable silence, munching on a cold slice of rest-stop pizza and staring at the phone in your lap, a half-century of marriage behind us, a dwindling supply of years ahead. The dashboard screen only displays one small section of our route at a time. As now directed, I continue straight, the highway lined with budding trees, a procession of virgin brides veiled in the dreamy green haze of a Northern spring.
I ask my wife what I should wear to the reading. Something flowing, she facetiously suggests. I put on my “good luck” sweater and my newest pair of old jeans. While I’m dressing, none of these sentences are in the right place. I might as well have heavy chains attached to my ankles dragging behind me along the ground. The doctors have forbidden me to exert myself – to bend or lift or climb. I don’t think they’re expecting me to recover. Yet here I am driving myself. A daytime moon floats above, ghostly thin, the pale, haggard face of a witness whose eyes have been plucked out.
— by Howie Good.
Copyright © 2023, by Howie Good. All Rights Reserved.
Howie Good’s newest poetry collection, Heart-Shape Hole, which also includes examples of his handmade collages, is available from Laughing Ronin Press.