for Edith Metzger
After a day of drinking, he was driving insanely. “Stop the car,” she screamed, “let me out!” He pushed the accelerator all the way to the floor. The car flew off the road and flipped. Sixty-five years later, he remains, despite the lurid manner of his death, a hallowed figure, the subject of biographies, a film, and museum retrospectives, viewed through a kind of enchanted mist as the anguished victim of his own artistic genius. And her? She was just a passenger.
The village was built mainly of wood. It was always burning down. I hadn’t felt safe there for a long, long time. Now the landlord had sold my last pieces of furniture while I was out getting mugged. I rolled my coat into a ball just to have a place to sit. My options were pitifully limited: run, hide, or drink. I stared across the room at the empty space on the wall where a framed print (Chagall’s “The Birthday”) used to hang. The emptiness glowed in the growing gloom like a nightingale with a toothache.
Lady Ogre was working out on her Peloton when she suddenly felt faint and dizzy and puked up a junkie. Downstairs, her sometime boyfriend, alias Captain Dread, stood with one booted foot on an alligator skull, preparing to address his talented but perverted crew of underground cartoonists. “Don’t let the page be gray,” he said in a voice like a cat o’ nine tails. “Make it jump! Make it crackle! Blister their irises!” While he spoke, a tree had grown out of the grave of the patron saint of pirates and rebels, Tom Paine, the leaves resembling in certain light black flags displaying the skull and crossbones.
Special trains departed every hour on the hour for labor camps and reeducation centers. Hatchet-faced men in leather trench coats would grab people right off the street. I struggled to keep the look of the panic-stricken out of my eyes, the hitch of the guilt-ridden out of my step. It wouldn’t even be noon, and the sun would already be a dying ember in an ashen sky. There was no specific end to the workday. Steel bars had been installed on factory windows and suicide nets on the roofs. Manufacturers knowingly sold baby food contaminated with the devil’s tears.
Howie Good is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, including most recently The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press), The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro Press), and Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing).